While their performance in the team’s playoff defeat to the Chargers would suggest otherwise, the Ravens offensive line was overall a solid unit last season. Over the final 6-7 games of the regular season, Baltimore’s rushing attack was the most dominant in the NFL.
Although this had much to due with Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards, and the offensive scheme, the performances of Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, and Orlando Brown Jr. were impressive down the stretch. While these three guys are back in the fold, there are still some question marks at the remaining two interior spots along the offensive line.
Ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, here are some bold predictions for Ravens fearsome five.
Orlando Brown Jr. makes the Pro Bowl
After riding the pine behind James Hurst for the first half of the 2018-19 season, Orlando Brown Jr., aka “Zeus Jr.”, seized the starting right tackle job and never looked back. He put concerns over his poor performance in the scouting combine behind him and showed flashes of elite play throughout the second half of the season. At 6’8”, 345 pounds, Brown is a physically stout presence and utilizes his size well, especially in pass protection. Brown only allowed 18 pressures in 378 pass-blocking snaps and his pressure allowed rate of 4.8 ranked eight-best among right tackles, per PFF.
Many felt the Ravens were getting a steal when they landed Brown in the third round of the draft and that proved to be true. With that being said, Brown still possesses the upside and potential to improve. If he can improve his run-blocking skills and become more disciplined and consistent, there’s no telling how good he could become. I’m betting we’ll see him take his game to another level next year as a full-time starter at right tackle and earn national recognition.
Ben Powers starts all 16 games
Baltimore added Brown’s former teammate and Oklahoma product Ben Powers in the fourth round of the draft just months ago. Powers isn’t the most polished prospect but he’s gritty, tough, and hard-nosed - three qualities the Ravens are looking for in their offensive lineman. The left guard platoon leaves much to be desired, as the likes of Alex Lewis and James Hurst aren’t exactly desirable options. Lewis has struggled to stay healthy over the course of his young career and Hurst is best-suited as a backup and occasional spot starter. Although Powers is less experienced than these two players, he has a good chance to win the starting job. I believe he’ll perform and acclimate himself well enough throughout training camp and preseason to earn the second starting guard position along the offensive line and maintain that role during the regular season.
Bradley Bozeman wins the starting center job by midseason
Matt Skura started all 16 games at center last year and while his performance left much to be desired, he’s currently projected to retain that role heading into the 2019-20 season. Skura earned a 58.3 grade from PFF last season, which ranked 23rd among centers. Nevertheless, the Ravens opted not to draft or add a center in free agency, leaving Skura as the only natural one on the roster. While listed as a guard, rising sophomore Bradley Bozeman has years of experience playing center from his collegiate days at Alabama. He was by no means spectacular in his rookie season last year, but Bozeman held his own in limited spurts. He figures to be in the mix for the starting left guard spot with Powers, Hurst, and Lewis, but a potential shift back to center could be the most optimal move.
So, while Skura may begin the season as the starting center once again, Bozeman just might be the Ravens best option at the position. The coaching staff appears to be relatively high on Skura but if he struggles like he did last year, replacing him with Bozeman in the starting lineup is a viable move. Look for this development to play out by at least Week 8 or so. It’s imperative that the Ravens prevent pressure up the middle to give Lamar Jackson time to operate and make reads.
Ronnie Stanley secures the bag
Left tackle has long been one of the most invaluable positions on an NFL roster, and its importance remains prominent today. Thankfully, the Ravens’ offensive line blindside is in pretty good shape, as Ronnie Stanley has emerged as one of the better left tackles in the league over the past few seasons. While his run-blocking remains a work in progress, Stanley’s consistency and talent in pass protection is borderline elite. Last season, he allowed only 17 pressures in 577 pass-blocking snaps and his pass-blocking grade of 87.0 ranked third among all offensive tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. Stanley has improved over his three-year career and is only 25 years old. He’s one of the most important young players on the roster, which is why locking him long-term before he hits the free agent market makes a lot of sense.
Eric DeCosta has made his desire to extend the contracts of young players on the roster, such as Tavon Young, well-known. The likes of Matthew Judon and Stanley are primed to earn extensions of their own, and reaching a deal with Stanley in 2019 would be ideal for Baltimore. Currently, the highest-paid left tackles in the league (in terms of annual salary) are Taylor Lewan, Nate Solder, Jake Matthews, Donovan Smith, and Russell Okung. The exact details of a potential Stanley extension remain to be seen, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him join the likes of these names. Given his youth, talent, and positional value, Stanley is worth the money.
Which of these bold predictions can you see coming to fruition? And what are some bold predictions of your own for the Ravens offensive line? Share your thoughts down below and join the conversation!