Following the difficult five-win 2015 campaign, the Baltimore Ravens preached continuity. Consistency in the front office and on the coaching staff worked out reasonably well last season, as the club rebounded with an 8-8 record. The coaching staff should apply this philosophy to the development of their young players during the upcoming training camp.
Continuity is most crucial on the offensive line, which also happens to be the Ravens most vulnerable position group. Cross training players at several positions can be helpful, but Marshal Yanda, Alex Lewis, John Urschel and Ryan Jensen already have regular season experience at multiple positions. After a couple weeks of hard practice at the beginning of training camp, the coaching staff should decide on their strongest grouping of blockers and allow the lineman to build chemistry with each other through consistent repetitions. Five fingers in a glove is an apt analogy for offensive line play.
If Lewis is best at left guard, than keep him at left guard. If Urschel or Jensen is the best option at center, allow them to master the position. If the front office plans to add a veteran to the mix, do so as soon as possible. The Ravens are reportedly transitioning into a power blocking scheme with a new offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris and running game guru Greg Roman. The more repetitions the lineman receive in camp to learn the nuances of the scheme, the better.
The same principle applies to the inside linebacker spot next to C.J. Mosley. Second year man Kamalei Correa is penciled in as the starter after a quiet rookie year. His competition for the job includes special teams ace Albert McClellan, undersized project Patrick Onwuasor and potentially versatile rookie linebacker Tyus Bowser. As former second round selections, Correa and Bowser should have clearly defined roles in the defense by the second preseason game in order to maximize the value of their cost controlled rookie contracts.
Too often in the past this coaching staff has stunted the development of promising young players by moving them from position to position. Examples include Paul Kruger, Darren Waller, Terrence Brooks, Carl Davis and Matt Elam. The Ravens do not have that luxury this season. The talent on their roster does not stack up favorably to top contenders in the league.
In order to reach their ceiling in 2017, the Ravens need Correa and Bowser to make an impact. They need their inexperienced offensive line to gel together. When training camp begins later this month, Baltimore’s coaching staff should be decisive and consistent when assigning positions to their young players.