Ravens still have work to do with the offensive line

  • Ravens center A.Q. Shipley and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe line up as Joe Flacco takes a snap in the final game of the regular season in December.
Ravens center A.Q. Shipley and offensive tackle Eugene Monroe… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
March 12, 2014|Mike Preston

The Ravens have had success in the first two phases of rebuilding their offense, but there is still a major concern about the third.

Where is the improvement on the interior of the offensive line?

The Ravens hired Gary Kubiak, one of the game's most respected offensive minds, as their offensive coordinator and have re-signed several of their top unrestricted free agents in tight end Dennis Pitta, tackle Eugene Monroe and receiver Jacoby Jones, but they still have needs at center and left guard.

If third year player Kelechi Osemele returns healthy from a back injury, he'll probably be moved from left guard to right tackle. That means the Ravens are still weak in the middle of the offensive line where quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice were abused countless times last season.

"It would have been a void if we had not been able to get Eugene signed to a long term deal, and we would have been facing, competing out in the market with some other teams, and there weren't a lot of other tackles out there," said Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. "So, to be able to have Eugene, to know that we've had him now for 10 weeks and then the weeks leading up to free agency, it just helps us to now move to some other positions as far as helping out the offensive line."

The Ravens aren't in panic mode yet but it appears the options are slim at finding capable replacements. The quality free agent guards like Geoff Schwartz (New York Giants) and Chad Rinehart (San Diego Chargers) have already signed and the best center, Alex Mack, has been designated the Cleveland Browns' transition player. There are some other capable centers available like Brian de la Puente (New Orleans Saints).

The Ravens could land a possible quality guard in the draft like Stanford's David Yankey or Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson, but there is always a learning curve for rookies. Combined with center Gino Gradkowski and his poor performance a year ago, there could be recurring nightmares.

It will be interesting to see what Newsome comes up with next. He has had a strong offseason and it started by luring Kubiak to Baltimore. Newsome also managed to get Monroe to sign a deal much lower than Monroe and his agent really wanted.

The Ravens now have an unspectacular but solid offensive tackle for years to come.

"Eugene is going to be a leader for us for many years to come," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's going to be an anchor out there at the left tackle spot and that's what you're looking for. That's not easy to do in this league anymore, and we're really pleased we have that to build from.

"To build from Dennis [Pitta] and Eugene now as our first two guys that we signed, two guys on our own team that are really lynchpin-type guys for us on offense is really important."

The Ravens also got more good news in the afternoon Wednesday when wide receiver Jacoby Jones agreed to new contract terms. Unlike Pitta and Monroe who were priorities, Jones was considered more of a luxury.

It will be interesting to see if Jones has more of a role in Kubiak's offense than in previous seasons. Jones's role as a return specialist is invaluable.

Overall, the Ravens are having success. Despite off the field issues with players, they are holding steady as far as protecting their own. But with the exception of Kubiak, the Ravens were 8-8 with Monroe, Pitta and Jones last year.

They still need to get better, especially in the interior of their offensive line.

mpreston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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