Just weeks away from the start of training camp, the Baltimore Ravens are getting set to try and right the wrong of the last two years. They just missed the playoffs on both occasions and in heartbreaking fashion, no less. The biggest question of the offseason was on offense, and general manager Ozzie Newsome responded by focusing the majority of the attention on that side of the ball.
In free agency and the draft, Newsome completely restarted at wide receiver and tight end by adding players such as Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead. He also landed a dynamic quarterback in Lamar Jackson and a hopeful Week 1 starter at right tackle with Orlando Brown. One position Newsome has neglected, however, is center. Center has been an issue for Baltimore lately.
The Ravens haven’t had stability at center since Matt Birk spent four years in Baltimore from 2009-2012. The Ravens have lined up Jeremy Zuttah, Gino Gradkowski, Ryan Jensen, and John Urschel at center. Last year, Jensen emerged as the starter and he did a solid job, creating a tough and physical presence in the middle of the offensive line. The Ravens, unfortunately, lost Jensen in free agency when he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Baltimore now has competition again at center with Matt Skura, Alex Lewis, Bradley Bozeman and possibly Nico Siragusa as contenders.
Head coach John Harbaugh and offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris will give these young players a shot in the preseason, but it is possible the team’s 2018 starter is not on the roster yet. Lewis proved to be a solid guard two years ago, but he has been hit hard by injuries. His 2017 season ended due to shoulder surgery, and he is now currently dealing with back spasms. Siragusa was drafted in the fifth round in last year’s draft, but also missed the year with a torn ACL, PCL and MCL. Skura started at right guard for twelve games in 2017 after Marshal Yanda went down with an injury.
The Ravens have already experimented with the offensive line and center in particular during OTAs and minicamp by rotating Lewis and Skura. It’s fair to note that Yanda has yet to return to the practice field, he is expected to be back for training camp. In terms of other options, Baltimore did have a shot with the 32nd pick to draft center James Daniels out of Iowa. The Ravens selected Jackson instead and Daniels went to the Chicago Bears in round two. In free agency at the moment, there is little to nothing available.
The Ravens hope they won’t have to go out and find a starter just before the regular season begins. Newsome has done it in the past to fill a necessary need, but the Ravens have confidence in their young, promising talent on the offensive line. Ideally, they won’t have to revert to veteran help again.