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Mike Preston's observations on Ravens offensive line, Rob Gronkowski's retirement and more

New general manager Eric DeCosta has talked about the importance of adding new players and building a stronger offensive line, but there is skepticism that the Ravens are creating a more run-oriented offense again.

For years, coach John Harbaugh has talked about being physical at the point of attack, but the Ravens haven’t invested a lot of top draft picks on offensive linemen. The most recent example was left tackle Ronnie Stanley, the sixth overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft.

Last year, the Ravens were able to get away with a mediocre offensive line because they had a scrambling quarterback in rookie Lamar Jackson and a downhill running game devised by then-tight ends coach Greg Roman.

Now that Roman has been promoted to offensive coordinator, the running game is the centerpiece of the offense built around Jackson. Because of that, I’m not sure the Ravens are interested in investing in offensive linemen. They might be tempted to try to pull off another magic act with the group they had last season.

It won’t work again.

The Ravens need more athletic offensive linemen, particularly at guard and center. And if right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. doesn’t have a good offseason in the weight room, he’ll struggle at pass protection along with center Matt Skura and left guards James Hurst and Alex Lewis.

The Ravens probably won’t use a first-round pick on a center, but there are a couple of good ones they can select in the second or third rounds, including Mississippi State’s Elgton Jenkins, Georgia’s Lamont Gaillard and Texas A&M’s Erik McCoy.

Hopefully DeCosta was paying more than just lip service as far as signing better-equipped offensive linemen.

Happy trails, Gronk

Despite recent statements by agent Drew Rosenhaus that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski might come out of retirement, here is hoping that he stays away.

His body has taken a beating throughout his nine-year career, and those injuries will start showing up again as he gets older. There is little else for Gronkowski to prove, having won three Super Bowl titles and catching 521 passes for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns.

The late Baltimore Colt John Mackey took the position to new heights in the 1960s. As a converted fullback, Mackey had the power to run over people after the catch but also the ability to work the deep middle of the field.

Gronkowski was just as big and just as fast as Mackey and was a mismatch anywhere on the field because he could line up on the outside as a receiver or play inside as a tight end or in the slot. Few players can take over and dominate a game, especially a tight end.

A lot of defensive coordinators around the league will sleep better if Gronkowski doesn’t come back.

Another QB needed?

The Ravens re-signed Robert Griffin III last week, which will make him the backup quarterback for the next two years, but they’ll probably bring another rookie or two into training camp.

That would make sense because Griffin is 29. Even if Jackson doesn’t perform well or gets hurt, Griffin is not the long-term answer. They might find a quarterback with potential in the mid to late rounds. If that’s the case, the Ravens would have a chance to groom another quarterback for at least one or maybe two years.

At this point, there are still a lot of questions about Jackson and his ability to win games as a pocket passer. The move to bring Griffin back was a smart one because he is similar in ability to Jackson, but backups need to be mobile because they get less practice reps and usually have to improvise more than the starters.

Running back competition

Several national publications have listed newly acquired Mark Ingram as the team’s starting running back over Gus Edwards, the No. 1 back last season.

There has been no clarification by Harbaugh or the team over the matter. At this point, Edwards would probably handle the backup role better, even though Ingram was No. 2 in New Orleans last season behind Alvin Kamara. With the Saints, Ingram was the closer, coming in in the second half to pound away at the defense and control the clock.

The Ravens offense will have that philosophy full-time. Last season, Edwards, as a rookie, finished with 718 rushing yards on 137 carries, with most of his success coming in the second half of the season. He appears to be a solid downhill runner, but also a quiet, humble individual who considers it a privilege to play in the NFL.

He could probably handle coming into training camp as No. 2 better than Ingram, the former Heisman Trophy winner and first-round pick out of Alabama who signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Ravens on March 13.

Help wanted

Is anyone surprised that no big-name receivers have called the Ravens during the offseason?

The Ravens better select one in the draft, because that player has no other choice than to make blocking a priority and catching passes secondary.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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