Our friends over at the SB Nation site for the Cincy Bengals, Cincy Jungle, continued their rankings of the AFC North position groups with the offensive line. Shocker here.... The Ravens have the best line in the division.
Scott Bantel notes that the line surprised him in 2014, which on the surface is the real shocker since the Ravens had Marshal Yanda, Eugene Monroe, and Kelechi Osemele showing up at the beginning of the year healthy. However, the dominance displayed by the line was due mostly because of the play of every lineman was on point. Jeremy Zuttah and Ricky Wagner both played exceptionally well at some of the poorer spots for the Ravens over the last few years, which helped solidify an offensive line that was dinged up the previous years.
Projected Depth Chart (per espn.com): LT- Eugene Monroe, LG- Kelechi Osemele, C- Jeremy Zuttah, RG- Marshal Yanda, RT- Rick Wagner
2014 Ranking: Pass Blocking Ranking: 7th, Run Blocking Ranking: 4th, Penalties Ranking: 14th
To me, the Ravens 2014 line was one of the biggest surprises. Joe Flacco was sacked just 19 times (2nd) and Justin Forsett had a career year with 1,266 yards and 5.4 YPC. My hesitancy with ranking the Ravens first in the division is the loss of Gary Kubiak. Kubiak has made a career of making offensive lines look impressive with his zone blocking scheme and with him moving on to Denver, I wonder if the Ravens can repeat their 2014 performance. However, the Ravens bring back the same group, so I am giving them (and Marc Trestman) the benefit of the doubt.
Bantel does say that he is hesitant to place the Ravens' offensive line as the best in the division because of the loss of offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, which makes some sense since he brought about a resurgence to the Ravens' rushing attack and offensive line. However, the Ravens' offensive line keeps the same coach as it had the previous season in Juan Castillo, along with another year where everyone is starting out healthy. If the Ravens can continue to stay upright, the line should be just as dominant, if not even more so.
Following the Ravens is the Cleveland Browns. We might make fun of them a good deal, but the Browns truly do have a good roster around them, but lack some of the playmakers and veterans necessary to be a complete team. Whenever you have players like Alex Mack and Joe Thomas on an offensive line, you are bound to be good.
The Bengals rank ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers, which in my opinion is more or less a focus on what they used to be. As of late, the Steelers' offensive line has been healthy and moving forward with the help of a less mobile Ben Roethlisberger and Le'Veon Bell running the ball.
Regardless of the rankings, the AFC North continues the pedigree of smash mouth football by having great offensive lines with each and every team.Follow @MatthewS_balt