It’s no secret that the Ravens offensive line under performed last season, perhaps serving as the catalyst for a failed offense as a whole. Joe Flacco was pressured consistently and relentlessly, and the run game had no where to go with few holes. Plagued by injury, poor performance, and perhaps lack of adjustment, the offense simply sputtered and ultimately cost the Ravens a playoff spot.
Changes were in order and they were made. A new scheme is being installed by new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. The Ravens let first round bust Michael Oher walk in free agency and promoted Ricky Wagner to fill his spot. They signed Eugene Monroe to a long term contract. And they traded a fifth round pick for Jeremy Zuttah, who is projected to start at center.
Many were surprised that the Ravens didn’t use a high draft pick on an offensive lineman, but they are confident in the current group and new starters Zuttah and Wagner have received nothing but praise for their performance thus far. Let’s take a look at each position along the line with the current projected depth for the 2014 season.
Left Tackle – Eugene Monroe, James Hurst
Eugene Monroe came over early last season in a trade with the Jags. It’s not often a team trades away a perennial Pro Bowl left tackle for cheap, but Ozzie Newsome got a steal here. Not only that, but Newsome got a great deal when signing him to a long term contract at less than market value. Only 27 years old, Monroe solidifies the left side of the line for years to come.
Monroe’s direct backup is currently projected to be James Hurst, an undrafted rookie free agent out of UNC. Hurst made 48 starts for the Tarheels at left tackle and earned first team All-ACC recognition his last two seasons. He lacks elite athleticism but possesses the arm length to be a left tackle and is a good run blocker. He’s a good developmental prospect behind Monroe.
Left Guard – Kelechi Osemele, Jah Reid
Osemele is back to 100 percent after he underwent back surgery last November. He was a left tackle in college but the Ravens like him at left guard where he has played extremely well to date. Osemele was a key component of the Raven’s 2012 Super Bowl run and manhandled some great defensive linemen along the way. His return to health will be a huge boost for the O line.
Reid is a rather disappointing former third round pick who has under performed when on the field and has had recent trouble with the law off the field. He played just 23 snaps in 2013 despite a great deal of opportunity, and doesn’t project to play much more than that in 2014.
Center – Jeremy Zuttah, Gino Gradkowski
Zuttah was acquired from the Bucs for a fifth round pick this offseason, and has received a lot of praise for his work in camp thus far. Zuttah underwhelmed for the Bucs last season, but even at that level of play is an upgrade on Gradkowski. He is a good fit in a zone blocking system given his athleticism. At the very least, Zuttah is serviceable and won’t be a human turnstile like Gradkowski was last year.
Right Guard – Marshal Yanda, John Urschel
Yanda is finally 100% after undergoing rotator cuff surgery last year. He is a three time Pro Bowler and his absence created a huge hole in the line down the stretch. Yanda does have a pretty extensive injury history, so the Ravens have to hope that he can stay healthy all season.
Urschel is a fifth round pick who was strictly a right guard at Penn State. He earned All-Big Ten honors twice and possesses good arm length and average athleticism. Urschel is smart as well, graduating with a 4.0 in three years at Happy Valley.
Right Tackle – Ricky Wagner, Ryan Jensen
Wagner has received great praise this offseason and the ultimate vote of confidence as the Ravens did nothing to bring in any major competition for the right tackle spot. He only has two starts in his short career but was a long time starter in college who displayed a great deal of toughness and versatility during his time at Wisconsin.
Jensen is a 2013 sixth round pick who played left tackle in college but is built more like a guard. He didn’t play at all in his rookie season due to a broken foot. In college, Jensen didn’t allow a single sack as a senior and was a 2012 FCS-All American in each of his final two seasons. Strong and reasonably athletic, he provides quality depth on the line.
How do you feel about the Raven’s O line this year?