Two gaping holes on offensive line now should be Ravens' biggest concern

The Ravens' 2017 offseason was expected to be about finding a top receiver, pass rusher or cornerback. As of last week, the top concern became the offensive line.

The basic philosophy of winning football is simple: If your front five can beat their front five, you're probably going to win most games.


With the Ravens, they don't have a front five on offense, but a front three. They have a left side with tackle Ronnie Stanley and guard Alex Lewis, and Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda is expected to start on the right side. After that, the Ravens are in no man's land.

They allowed right tackle Rick Wagner to sign with Detroit, which wasn't a bad move because Wagner isn't worth the $9 million per season the Lions shelled out. And then last week, the Ravens traded starting center Jeremy Zuttah to the San Francisco 49ers for a swap of sixth-round draft picks. That's not a problem either, especially the way Zuttah struggled last season. Zuttah, though, was serviceable. Who is the starting center now?

Is it Ryan Jensen or John Urschel?

Please, let's not kid anyone. Jensen isn't athletic enough to be a full-time starter, and unless smart guy Urschel comes up with an equation to gain about 15 to 20 pounds, he isn't big enough.

Next question: Who is going to start at right tackle? James Hurst? OK, no more jokes. The most intriguing prospect is third-year player De'Ondre Wesley, the undrafted free agent out of Brigham Young. He is 6 feet 6, weighs 320 pounds and has enormous potential, much like the late Orlando Brown. Maybe it comes together for Wesley this season.

What makes this offensive line and upcoming season even more interesting is that we really don't know the approach of assistant Greg Roman, recently hired to put some power into the Ravens' running game. Will he want his linemen versatile enough to play several positions like former line coach Juan Castillo, or is he a one-position type guy who will demand eight linemen on game day rosters instead of seven?

The Ravens can probably find a good center in the draft, such as LSU's Ethan Pocic, Kentucky's Jon Toth or Ohio State's Pat Elflein. But if they want to play power football, he needs to have size, unlike Urschel and Zuttah. The great thing about that position, as well as guard, is that they can get help because they are inside.

The same can be said of the right tackle position. For years, the Ravens have done a good job of providing their right tackles with assistance, either with a tight end or running back, but that also makes a team predictable. And when that happens, the quarterback becomes vulnerable.

The Ravens might opt to fill that position through the draft as well, but then they would have a young offensive line. That's a concern because quarterback Joe Flacco was gun shy last year after coming off major knee surgery from the 2015 season.

Flacco has already proven that he can't carry a team, but given adequate personnel he can win big in the NFL. He has to be comfortable, and a major step is providing him with a good offensive line.

The Ravens need to get a No. 1 receiver to replace recently retired Steve Smith Sr. It certainly would help improve a passing game that produced only 256.3 yards per game last season as Flacco averaged only 6.4 yards per reception.

The Ravens have to find a shutdown cornerback because the absence of one has cost them the past four years.

They cut outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil this offseason, and his linemate on the other side, Terrell Suggs, isn't the dominant force he used to be.

But in this league, almost every team has gaping holes. That's why the difference between most teams in getting to the playoffs is having a quarterback who can win, which the Ravens have, and keeping him upright.


And that's the biggest area of concern right now.


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