2018 Preseason: Ravens offensive line must show up versus the Rams
Great teams are built through the trenches. This week’s match-up against the Rams provides the Ravens with a great test for their offensive line.
The preseason is undoubtedly boring at times, but it is also a crucial piece of the off-season that is important for assessing team needs. It’s better to discover a weakness in the roster during the preseason and address it sooner rather than later. For the Ravens, the offensive line seemed to be a big question mark, and now the unit will see it’s first big test of the season on Thursday night.
The Los Angeles Rams host two of the NFL’s most dominant defensive linemen in Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. Thankfully, the Ravens won’t likely see either of them on Thursday night, certainly not Donald (sigh of relief). But even beyond those two, the Rams still have a great front-seven with defensive mastermind Wade Phillips calling the shots.
This Rams front-seven is loaded with talent and could provide the Ravens offense will all sorts of headaches. No offense to the Chicago Bears, but the Rams defense should provide a greater test.
Even with Donald and Suh out of the equation, Michael Brockers is still a massive man who can eat blocks and cause havoc against Baltimore. Meanwhile, a dedicated Dominique Easley is a handful to block. The Rams also have unheralded pass rushers like Matt Longacre, Ryan Davis, and Ethan Westbrooks who can give the young Ravens offensive line trouble.
Bottom line, it’s not going to be a walk in the park for an offensive line who struggled against the Bears during the Hall of Fame Game.
Time to step it up:
We know that guys like Ronnie Stanley and Marshal Yanda are going to be just fine once the season rolls around, so we won’t waste our breath talking about them this preseason. Instead, we need to see improvements from guys like Matt Skura and Bradley Bozeman, two guys who could see significant starting time in 2018.
Skura performed admirably in 2017, but that won’t suffice in 2018. Bozeman was a sixth round pick for a reason, but the Ravens are still hoping he can show off something that will help him to make the team. The two of them are likely battling it out for either the left guard spot or the center position for 2018, seeings how Alex Lewis likely takes whichever of those two spots he wants more.
Orlando Brown, Jr. looked solid against the Bears and could use another strong showing to prove he’s better than his draft position. Brown is certainly breathing down the neck of James Hurst, who despite having resigned with the Ravens this off-season is not guaranteed a starting gig. Competition is certainly a good thing, but the Ravens have to be hoping that someone begins emerging sooner rather than later.
It’s only week one of the preseason, so we can’t expect these guys to come out and look like All-Pros. But being a week removed from one game already, the team has to know where they can improve. It also helps Baltimore out significantly that they had the majority of the week to game plan against the Rams thanks to joint-practices being held for the teams.
The Ravens offensive line looked like a work in-progress prior to the season, and the Hall of Fame Game showed us more of what we expected. Hopefully in the team’s second preseason game, the offensive line unit has figured out where they can get better and we can begin to see a positive trend towards improvement.