The Baltimore Ravens had a few injuries along the offensive line in 2017. Nico Siragusa (knee) and Alex Lewis (shoulder) went down before the season began. Starting right guard Marshal Yanda fractured his ankle against the Cleveland Browns during the second game of the 2017 season.
Despite these injuries, other players stepped up for the Ravens. James Hurst took over for Lewis at the left guard spot and Matt Skura played at right guard in place of Yanda. With Ronnie Stanley at left tackle, Hurst at left guard, Ryan Jensen at center, Skura at right guard, and Austin Howard at right tackle, Baltimore allowed just 27 sacks on the season (seventh-fewest in the NFL).
However, Baltimore will see their offensive line change once again. Howard was a cap casualty during the offseason and Jensen departed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency, opening up two positions along the offensive line.
In lieu of his solid season as the starting left guard, Hurst was handed a four-year/$17.5 million contract ($8 million guaranteed). Baltimore would also draft offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. in the third round, center Bradley Bozeman and offensive tackle Greg Senat during the sixth round.
With Siragusa, Lewis and Yanda making their returns, as well as three new draft picks along the offensive line, Baltimore will have some more depth to work with this season. The biggest question is who will start?
Projected starting offensive line:
LT Ronnie Stanley
LG Alex Lewis
C Bradley Bozeman
RG Marshal Yanda
RT Orlando Brown Jr.
Reasons for this lineup:
With Lewis and Yanda returning to their guard positions, they’ll be penned-into their starting roles. Stanley is also a definite starter at left tackle. That leaves center and right tackle for the positions that need to be won.
My projected starters at those two spots are Bozeman and Brown Jr. Though it is possibility that Hurst could begin the season as the starting guard, with Lewis kicking out to right tackle, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Brown Jr. play right tackle alongside Yanda at guard. Yanda will be able to aide many growing pains that Brown Jr. could possibly have at tackle.
Brown Jr. does have the length that one would want as a starting tackle in the NFL and he’s easily the tallest player on the Ravens. He stands at 6’8 and has 35-inch arms. His tape shows that he can make the blocks that are in front of him and he will make it to the second level. Though not an exceptional athlete, he’s probably better off starting at tackle than Hurst would be and Lewis has played his best football at guard.
As for Bozeman, he will have to fend off Skura and possibly Siragusa and Lewis for the starting center role. As stated previously, Lewis’ best position is left guard and it will maximize the talent along the offensive line. Siragusa is still returning from a major knee injury, so he could possibly start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. That leaves Bozeman and Skura.
Bozeman stands at 6’5, 316 lbs. Skura is 6’3, 305 lbs. The size advantage goes to Bozeman. Though Bozeman has the size advantage, Skura held his own as a pass blocker and has shown that he can start in the NFL at guard. He didn’t win the center competition last season over Jensen simply because he wasn’t as nasty at the point of attack and he was smaller.
Bozeman was a winner at Alabama and capped off his career with a National Championship. His size will allow him to win battles up front and he’s able to make combo blocks that one would like to see out of a starting center. All of these qualities are extremely important and were seen in Jensen previously.
As for the backups, Baltimore has Skura, Hurst and Jermaine Eluemunor who can man multiple positions across the offensive line. Skura’s main position is center and it is assumed that he can play both guard positions. Hurst has played guard and tackle and Eluemunor played tackle in college, but has played guard in the NFL.
If Baltimore decides to go with this lineup up front, it will give them the best chance to win this season. They’ll have the girth and the raw talent to protect Joe Flacco and create running lanes for Alex Collins, Kenneth Dixon and Javorius Allen.