Ravens: O-line refinding its collective feet
When you come down off of a high, sometimes you crash back down to the ground hard. Such was the case for the Baltimore Ravens in 2013, who had just pulled off an improbable Super Bowl victory back in February. As we now know, the Ravens failed to even qualify for the postseason. While several factors contributed to their downturn in 2013, the main finger of blame can be pointed at the offensive line.
Even with the presence of stud Marshal Yanda at guard (+12.5 in 2013) and the acquisition of highly-skilled left tackle Eugene Monroe (+20.5 with the Ravens in 2013) about a third of the way into the season, the rest of the Ravens’ offensive line played poorly enough to finish 22nd in pass protection and 27th in run blocking. No other lineman who saw significant action finished with a grade better than Kelechi Osemele (-4.2), and he was lost for the season after seven games after requiring back surgery.
During the subsequent offseason, Baltimore made sweeping changes to their offensive line. Michael Oher was allowed to leave in free agency, A.Q. Shipley was cut during the preseason, and Gino Gradkowski has been relegated to backup status once more. To compensate for these departures, the Ravens re-signed Eugene Monroe to a long-term deal and acquired Jeremy Zuttah from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. They also promoted a fifth-round pick from the 2013 Draft, Ricky Wagner, to a starting job at right tackle.
These changes on the offensive line, along with a return to good health by Osemele (+5.1), have paid dividends for the franchise. Both Zuttah (+3.3) and Wagner (+1.8) have gotten off to strong starts, and every starter on the offensive line for the Ravens currently sports a positive overall grade. Through two weeks the Ravens rank eighth in run blocking, and they’re the top overall team in pass protection; propelling a Ravens offense that is now looking dangerous again.