Friday, May 4, 2012
Ravens: One big question
By Jamison Hensley
Are the Baltimore Ravens set on the offensive line?
That remains to be seen. The other teams in the division improved their offensive lines in the draft. The Steelers got the top-rated guard (David DeCastro) in the first round, the Bengals added the best run-blocking guard (Kevin Zeitler) and the Browns grabbed the best right tackle prospect (Mitchell Schwartz). The Ravens bring back four starters from a line that got better as the season progressed, but there's been a significant downgrade at one spot.
At left guard, the Ravens are going from a Pro Bowl player in Ben Grubbs to a lineman who played tackle in college (either Jah Reid or Kelechi Osemele). By looking at Baltimore's moves, it doesn't seem like the Ravens are sold on Reid, a third-round pick in 2011, starting there. After failing to keep Grubbs (who signed with New Orleans in free agency), Baltimore tried to lure free agent Evan Mathis away from the Eagles and then used a second-round pick on Osemele. The Ravens have had only one rookie start a full season on the offensive line in the previous four seasons (Michael Oher in 2009).
There are other issues on the line beyond left guard. The Ravens need left tackle Bryant McKinnie to lose weight and cut his sacks allowed (he led the team with 8.5). They need right tackle Oher to reduce his penalties (four for false starts and five for holding). And they need Matt Birk, 36, to continue his streak of 96 straight games played. While the offseason focus will remain on the contract status of Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, the real storyline on offense entering the 2012 season is the state of Baltimore's line.