To begin the season, the Baltimore Ravens lost LG Alex Lewis and rookie backup guard Nico Siragusa to season-ending injuries. Hours before day one of training camp, they also lost G/C John Urschel to retirement. The Ravens were in big trouble. Compounding onto the losses, right guard Marshal Yanda in suffered a season-ending ankle injury back in week 2. Everybody officially hit the panic button soon after.
What looked to be a giant recipe for disaster has instead turned out to be one of the more impressive position groups on the Ravens team. Sure, there has been games where the offensive line didn’t perform well, but for the most part this season, they have been a pleasant surprise.
Second year player and first round pick Ronnie Stanley protects Joe Flacco’s blindside at the left tackle position, and he does it about as well as you can ask for. Last year, Stanley got hot late in the season and went on a roll of fantastic games. He seems to be doing the same this year. With Stanley healthy, Flacco is certainly protected on the left side.
James Hurst mans the left guard position. Before this season, Hurst was viewed as a tackle, and not a very good one. After all of the injuries to the line however, Hurst moved inside to guard and flourished. He has played far better than anyone could have anticipated. Hurst may very well be playing himself out of Baltimore’s price range with his play at guard this season. He is extremely versatile as well, being able to play every position except for center as of right now. Teams value that greatly. I suspect Hurst will receive a decent pay day after this season.
Ryan Jensen anchors the center of the line, and is the big bully of the group. Jensen has become a fan favorite this year with his nasty style of play, in particular when he rushed to defend Joe Flacco after Dolphins LB Kiko Alonso knocked him out of the game with a concussion on an illegal hit, causing a skirmish between both teams. The center position was a huge question mark, even before the retirement of John Urschel. Jensen has solidified the position and may very well be the future at center for the Ravens. I expect he will receive a decent contract this off-season as well.
Right guard is the position on the line that has by far seen the most players. After Marshal Yanda went down, Tony Bergstrom stepped up to the plate and was demolished. He was eventually cut from the team. Rookie Jermaine Eluemunor was next, followed by second year player Matt Skura, who finally brought stability. Skura has had a consistently solid season. His highs aren’t too high but his lows aren’t too low either. He has shown he can be a reliable backup for Baltimore going forward.
Last but not least is right tackle Austin Howard. After being released by the Raiders this past off-season, Howard was brought in to replace Rick Wagner who the Ravens lost to the Lions in free agency. Howard is slow for a tackle but is a behemoth of a man. He has had some fantastic games as a Raven this year, most notably against his former Raiders team when facing Khalil Mack. Howard probably won’t be in Baltimore for long, but he is a great stop gap solution at right tackle, until the Ravens can find their player of the future.
Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris and senior offensive assistant/tight ends coach Greg Roman deserve a ton of praise for what they have accomplished with the bad hand they were dealt. The Ravens are one of the better rushing teams compared to being one of the worst only a season ago. Such a strange turn of events, as the injuries looked to only cripple this team, yet the coaching staff has turned this ‘patchwork line of misfits’ into an offensive rushing attack, with quarterback protecting qualities.