Baltimore Ravens Offensive Line: The Real MVP Of 2014


Sep 29, 2013; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Baltimore Ravens guard Kelechi Osemele (72) and guard Marshal Yanda (73) before the game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens are 2-1 following a tough road win over the Cleveland Browns, one that literally went down to the wire.  It was a game that featured the emergence of rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro, another excellent performance by wide receiver Steve Smith, and a coming out party for fullback Kyle Juszczyk.  But what if I told you that their success was made possible by the excellent play of the Baltimore Ravens offensive line?

You know, the same position unit that sunk the Raven’s offense in 2013.  The one that kept Joe Flacco scrambling for his life and taking more hits than a punching bag in a boxing gym.  The same unit that could barely open a hole big enough for a paper airplane to fly through and pick up more than three yards.  Granted, this is a line that features a couple of new starters over last year, but let’s take a look at how much things have changed thanks to the wonder of Pro Football Focus’ excellent stats.

The real story comes from the offensive guards, particularly Kelechi Osemele, who has been an absolute beast through three games in both pass and run blocking.

Through three games, the Ravens offensive line is ranked 4th best in the NFL in pass blocking efficiency.  On 128 passing plays, they have allowed a mere two sacks, two QB hits, and 16 pressures.  Meaning that Joe Flacco has only faced pressure on 15% of his drop backs.  In 2013, the Ravens ranked 23rd.  Flacco was sacked 22 times and hit 38 times with 152 hurries on 684 passing plays, meaning he was pressured 31% of the time.

What makes these stats look even better is the fact that perhaps the worst play along the Ravens O-line has come from its tackles.  Eugene Monroe is only the 24th best tackle in the NFL in pass blocking efficiency so far, and Rick Wagner is 20th. Both sacks and all 16 pressures have come from one side of the line or the other.  Even still, both rank in the top third of NFL tackles, so it isn’t horrible.  And both are tied for the sixth best spot in the NFL for overall tackle play.

The real story comes from the offensive guards, particularly Kelechi Osemele, who has been an absolute beast through three games in both pass and run blocking.  Osemele grades out as the number one offensive guard in the NFL, and the third best in pass blocking efficiency.  Marshal Yanda comes in as the second best guard in the NFL, but only 27th in pass pro. Jeremy Zuttah has been a perfect schematic fit for the Ravens as well, ranking out as the 7th best center and fourth best in pass pro.

The real bread and butter has been this offensive line’s performance in the run game.  If it suddenly seems like every single running back on the Raven’s roster is a budding star, it’s because they actually have holes to run through this season.  Yanda and Osemele are ranked numbers one and two, respectively, in run blocking for NFL guards, and Zuttah is fifth among centers.  The biggest liability, again, is the tackles.  Wagner is 29th, and Monroe is 62nd.

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Overall, the Ravens have graded out as the third best team in the NFL in run blocking, and the second best in pass pro. Cumulatively they have rushed 89 times for 411 yards through three games (4.6 avg) and two touchdowns.  Most of that success has come from rushing off middle right (5.0 avg), right guard (8.2 avg), and right tackle (6.5 avg).

In the passing game, it’s fair to note that the 50% drop in pressure is having a positive effect on Joe Flacco, even though the raw stats may not support it.  Flacco isn’t lighting up the scoreboard with yards and touchdowns, but he has transformed his game in regard to accuracy, completing 61.5% of his passes through three games.  He is completing 66.0% of his passes when he is not under pressure, compared to only 46.4% when pressured.

So while the flashy offensive skill position players may get all the attention, it’s clear that the Baltimore Ravens offensive line is the unsung hero of this team and the main reason why they are 2-1 and not 0-3.  They have done a fantastic job overall of protecting their quarterback and opening up holes in the run game.  The offensive linemen are truly the MVPs of this team following a dramatic year over year transformation under Gary Kubiak’s tutelage.