August 17, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens center Gino Gradkowski (66) prior to their preseason game against the Detroit Lions at M

Digging in the Trenches: A Look at the State of the Ravens Offensive Line


Jan 20, 2013; Foxboro, MA, USA; General view of the line of scrimmage as Baltimore Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox (46) snaps the ball against the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium. The Ravens defeated the Patriots 28-13. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

 

This article is about a group of guys that doesnt really get talked about much. They’re the unsung heroes of the offense. Probably the most important part, at least to me, of any offense is the offensive line. They’re the guys who block for the skill guys and the guys who buy the QB enough time to make plays through the air. It is very hard for teams to win with bad or inconsistent offensive line play. That is why I am going to be taking a look right now at the possible outcomes for the Raven’s offensive line post-draft. There are some spots to be filled and it is going to be interesting to see how things shape up for the o-line in this upcoming season.  The Raven’s offensive line is something of an enigma heading into the post-draft months before training camps. The biggest spots to fill are the left tackle position and the center position. I feel that center is going to be the more difficult of the two positions to fill because of the talent that is no longer playing the position. Everyone is talking about Ray Lewis and Ed Reed no longer being a part of the Raven’s team anymore. While those are two unmeasurable assets that are no longer on the defensive side of the ball, I feel that there is one player who is sometimes over looked as no longer being a part of the Ravens team. That person is Matt Birk. He was a stud for the years that he was wearing a Ravens uniform. He was very consistent up the middle as the anchor and leader of the offensive line.  Now that he is gone there are some pretty big shoes to fill not only there, but other positions on the offensive line as well. It seems that the only sure position on the line is Marshal Yanda at right guard. That one is just obvious.

 

Left Tackle:

Left tackle was just solidified yesterday when the Ravens got their guy back and resigned LT Bryant McKinnie. Originally I wrote this article while McKinnie was not with the team. So there was a lot of speculation here on whether or not the Ravens would move Osemele or Oher over to LT and where Jah Reid would play to start next season. McKinnie was being courted by the Titans, Cowboys, Chargers and Dolphins, All four teams are looking for help on their offensive lines. Well McKinnie Resigns with a two year deal. McKinnie played phenomenaly when inserted into the offensive line come playoff time. He managed to completely neutralize three very good pass rushers on the Ravens road to then Lombardi Trophy. The three pass rushers I mentioned were Dwight Freeney, Von Miller and Aldon Smith. He will definitely be the starter here come the start of the season. Though things could change depending on how Ricky Wagner, Jah Reid, or Kelechi Osemele develop this offseason. McKinnie could very well get a run for his money from one of the young guys.

 

Left Guard:

Ideally this is where Kelechi Osemele ends up. When he was shifted over here last season during the playoffs he did amazing.  If he is forced to bump over to the tackle position then the duo of Jah Reid and Ramon Harewood could both work. Both guys played some at this position last year and it took and injury to Reid for the Ravens to move Osemele over to the guard position. So both could potentially work. Plus the Ravens drafted Ricky Wagner and Ryan Jensen who could both play the guard position, but I think that they will both find themselves as backups on the roster with room to develop. So for the time being I think the Ravens really want to stick with Osemele here. Though I have heard talks that the Ravens are really high on an undrafted free agent prospect from 2012 that spent last season on the practice squad: Jack Cornell. He’s a dark horse for this position, but from what I hear there are people in the organization that really like this guy.

 

Center: 

More than likely the starting center is going to be Gino Gradkowski. Not really much to discuss here unless Ryan Jensen really improves during training camp and can leap Gradkowski in the depth chart during the summer and work his way into a starting spot. For the time being be assured that its Gradkowski as starter with Jensen backing up.

 

Right Guard:

Another no brainer: Marshal Yanda. He’s one the best guards in the NFL and really seems to excel here on the right side as a run blocker. He has paired great on the right side with Michael Oher as his linemate so I dont really see a reason for him to move. Whoever isnt starting at left guard will probably backup Yanda here, my guess is Wagner.

 

Right Tackle:

I stated earlier that the Ravens would love it if they could find a way to keep Michael Oher here. He played much better on this side when he replaced Kelechi Osemele here last season. If Oher does happen to get moved over to the left side then I think the Ravens could go with Osemele here again to see how that works out. Or, as I suspect, the Ravens go with Reid. He is probably the best linemen that they have to take over this position if Oher is forced to move and they want to keep Osemele at the left guard position. Maybe Wagner could surprise a lot of people and play like he did a couple of years ago in college where he looked like a potential first round pick. Either way I really think the Ravens try to keep Oher here and figure things out on the other side. If they cant find a suitable replacement I think they would be forced to move Oher. Protecting Joe Flacco is priority number one, and the Ravens cant afford him getting blindsided with inadequate line play on the left side.

 

MY PREDICTION FOR THE RAVENS OFFENSIVE LINE

 

LT: Bryant McKinnie – McKinnie signed a new two-year deal with the team and he should be starting here when the season s tarts.

LG: Kelechi Osemele – I really think this is where he  helps the Ravens the most.

C: Gino Gradkowski – By default he’s the guy. Hopefully he can mesh well with fellow Blue Hen Joe Flacco

RG: Marshal Yanda – No real reason to think otherwise

RT: Michael Oher – He’s better here than he is on the left side.  This is where the Ravens want him, and with McKinnie back, this is where he’ll stay.

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Tags: Baltimore Ravens Kelechi Osemele Marshal Yanda Michael Oher Offensive Line

  • joeblow

    So what do the experts think about Gino replacing Birk at center, worse, better, about the same?

    • Tynan Patrick

      I would expect Gino to be an improvement during play and a downgrade pre-snap. The center is tasked with making all of the calls for shifts and blitz pickups before the snap for the rest of the offensive line. That is what has made birk a great center throughout his career. he was highly intelligent and one of the best at picking up reads. with Gino, we dont really know how he will do in that regard. Birk was clearly on the back end of his career last year. he was terrible in pass protection and was repeatedly pushed off his spot forcing others(mainly Marshall Yanda) to give him help so he wasnt overwhelmed. He was better in run blocking, though he was still far from perfect and wasnt ever really a good fit for the zone scheme the Ravens have been moving more and more towards. Gino should be better in both areas. he is a perfect zone scheme center, a bit small but highly athletic and plays nasty. he should do ok in pass protection and he spent most of his time in college in pass protection in the shotgun, which, under Jim Caldwell, should be the Ravens primary lineup. If McKinnie can actually show up in shape and play all season, Gino should have much more around him on the interior than Birk had to work with last year. Yanda will be the same, but instead of a revolving door at LG and Oher at LT, Gino will have KO at LG who, if he plays like he did in the playoffs, should be a probowler and McKinnie at LT.

  • steppxxxxz

    david mims is around, too.