Five questions facing the Ravens when they return from the bye week
With the Ravens off to a 3-4 start and staring at the AFC playoff race from the outside looking in, The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker takes a look at five questions they face coming off their bye week.
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1.( Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun / October 6, 2013 )
Can the Ravens fix their offensive line?
No problem has vexed the Ravens more consistently than poor play from their offensive line.
Every player on the line has produced at least one solid game. But each season-long starter, including two-time Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda, center, has delivered more mediocre-to-poor performances than good ones.
This has been especially true in run blocking, where tight ends Ed Dickson and Dallas Clark have struggled as well. The Ravens have been stuffed at the line of scrimmage more than any team in the league, even the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. That's a big reason why their running backs' yards-per-carry average stands at a ghastly 2.75, more than a yard below the league average.
Right tackle Michael Oher has always been a better pass blocker than run blocker, so his difficulties are no surprise. But center Gino Gradkowski has been a significant downgrade from the retired Matt Birk. And a chronic back injury has kept left guard Kelechi Osemele from living up to the promise of his rookie season.
There are reasons for optimism.
Bryant McKinnie was a disaster at left tackle through five games, but the Ravens moved aggressively to replace him by trading for Eugene Monroe. Monroe, younger and more agile than McKinnie, has played well in both his starts.
The line also played perhaps its best all-around game of the season in its last outing, against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That might seem like a booby prize, given that Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce combined for only 58 yards on 21 carries.
But coach John Harbaugh has said the Ravens now have the players they need to block effectively. With Monroe in place, there's at least a chance he's correct.