The Ravens Offensive Line Is A Rock To Build Around

Sports and Bets — February 13, 2015 at 10:16 am by

by Babes

What a difference a year, a center, a new system, and some health can make.  In 2013, the Ravens offensive line was damn near the worst in football.  Averaging only 3.1 yards per rush attempt, it’s no secret why 2013 was the only time in the Flacco-Harbaugh era that the Ravens didn’t make the postseason, nor win a playoff game.  Fast forward a year to 2014: KO gets healthy, the Ravens let Michael Oher walk, they sent Gino Gradkowski to the bench and they acquired Jeremy Zuttah.  In steps Gary Kubiak, and next thing you know, the Ravens offensive line is damn near the best in football, helping journeyman running back  Justin Forsett average 5.4 yards per carry.

Moving forward into 2015, the Ravens have a building block in their offensive line.  All five starters return to the unit, along with the top three backups.  That makes for the best unit in football, in my mind.  Factoring in the depth and experience, the Ravens have amassed a special unit. Their depth is particularly heartening.  The Ravens have a backup tackle in second year player James Hurst who can step in and protect the blindside of Joe Flacco.  This has already been proven as Hurst did just that in two playoff games when Eugene Monroe went down.  They also have John Urshel, who is a more than capable interior lineman that can cover both guard positions.  This depth gives the Ravens injury insurance and it may give them salary-cap insurance in the near future.  (More on that in a few paragraphs, but first we’ll discuss the guy who totes the rock behind this rock solid line.)

The more I ponder this Justin Forsett contract situation, the more I feel the Ravens need to let him walk.  As much as I like him, and appreciate what he accomplished this season, the Ravens simply don’t have the resources to retain him.  They are too tight against the cap to sign Forsett to a multi-year deal, when they can get the job done with Pierce, Taliafero, and whomever they draft in early May.  And the fact that Forsett will be 30 years old when the season starts lends more skepticism as to why would you sign him, even for two years.

oline

The blueprint in the new NFL is established.  Teams draft young backs, run them into the ground before their rookie contract is up, and then let them walk for greener pastures.  A perfect example of this is DeMarco Murray.  The Cowboys severely overused Murray last year with well over 400 touches on the season knowing full well they weren’t going to resign him, because they’ve already got the best out of him.  Bell cow runners are becoming extinct faster than expected, in lieu of the fact that running back committees that are much cheaper, and in most cases, more efficient.  Running backs are catching on to this trend as well, as you see more and more young backs leaving school way early to get to that NFL paycheck.  You’re also going to see more young backs do what Chris Johnson did a few years back; holdout for extensions off their rookie deals.  You can’t blame them, as backs have the shortest shelf life of any NFL position.  3.3 years is the average amount of time an NFL running back’s career lasts.

Coming back to the Ravens situation, extending the contract of Marshal Yanda, and perhaps even Keleche Osemele would be a much more prudent use of funds.  Yanda’s extension would free up a size able amount of cap space this year and keep one of the best locker room figures happy.  An extension would also ensure that Yanda would retire a Raven.  He is a cornerstone of this organization, and he deserves the security.  I can’t see more of a win-win situation for both the player and the organization.  As far as Osemele goes, I feel there is a decision coming down the road on whether the Ravens will keep him or Eugene Monroe. (Monroe is entering the second year of a five year deal, but there is always the possibility of the Ravens cutting him after this season).  There may not be enough cap space to keep both players if Osemele continues to ascend, but that’s why it’s such a luxury to have both James Hurst and John Urschel if a difficult decision should arise on K.O and Monroe.  Depth makes money decisions on starters easier down the line. Personally, I feel the Ravens should at least explore the possibility of locking up Osemele early before he prices out of their range.

yanda

Having a rock solid offensive line gives the entire organization peace of mind about the rest of the offense.  And system-wise, the line and the Ravens won’t miss a beat with Marc Trestman coming in to replace the departed Kubiak. Do the Ravens need more help on offense?  Of course.  They need to make a decision on Torrey Smith, bring in another young receiver, and acquire another tight end to replace Owen Daniels.  Hopefully after five consecutive years of going defense first in the draft, Ozzie will give the offense some love in 2015.

 

cover: russellstreetreport

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