After addressing the flashy positions on offense, let’s move on to grading the “big uglies” up front, who played a key role in the Ravens success this season.
You can find links to the prior report card articles below:
It’s only right to start off at left tackle, where former 2016 first-round pick Ronnie Stanley truly came into his own this past season. Stanley had been solid, if not very good, through his first three years in the NFL but emerged as a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl talent in 2019, cementing his status as one of the league’s top offensive lineman.
Stanley was PFF’s highest-graded tackle in pass protection and earned an 87.2 mark overall. In 938 snaps, Stanley allowed zero - yes, zero - sacks on the year, a remarkable feat considering some of the pass-rushers he was tasked with slowing down throughout the season. He committed just five penalties and allowed six pressures, too. The list of impressive statistics and numbers goes on and on.
The only argument against Stanley is that he was certainly aided, at least a little, by the team’s run-heavy scheme and Lamar Jackson’s off-script ability, athleticism and elusiveness. Still, these variables shouldn’t be used to discredit what was an awesome season from the Ravens franchise left tackle.
Maybe the hardest player to evaluate on the offensive line is Bradley Bozeman. The sophomore surprised many by winning the starting left guard job in training camp and the preseason but wound up proving himself to be the most worthy and capable player at that spot, as he played well enough to sustain a spot in the lineup for all 16 games this season.
From an individual standpoint, Bozeman evidently has more limitations than some his counterparts along the offensive line. There were times throughout the year where he was simply overpowered and/or outmaneuvered by opposing defensive lineman, but that was to be expected.
Where he did shine, though, was when Greg Roman tasked him with “pulling” and blocking downfield in space. Bozeman did a fairly consistent job of creating holes in the second level of defenses, especially on stretch and zone rushes.
All in all, not a perfect performance by any means but while there were both ups and downs, Bozeman generally exceeded expectations. He performed well enough to elicit optimism about his prospects in 2020 and potentially beyond.
Briefly skipping over the center spot (more on that below), right guard was once again one of the strongest positions on the Ravens roster. Why is that, you may ask? Because of Marshal Yanda, that’s why.
At age 35 and in 13th career season, it’d be reasonable to expect Yanda to begin showing signs of decline. However, that was far from the case, as the veteran guard was yet again one of the premier players in the league at his position.
Yanda allowed just one sack throughout the season and earned a 85.9 grade from PFF, another high mark for the future Hall of Famer. Whether it was mauling dudes at the line or opening up holes in space, Yanda thrived in Roman’s offense. On another note, it was a joy to see him get along so well with Lamar Jackson, as those two seemed to develop a very strong relationship as the season progressed.
If Yanda chooses to retire, which is perhaps the biggest cloud looming over the Ravens this offseason, then he’ll do so leaving nothing on the field. However, he surely has at least another year of high-level play left in the tank.
Orlando Brown Jr.
Entering the 2019 season, second-year tackle Orlando Brown Jr. was hyped up as a potential breakout candidate after coming on strong towards the end of his rookie year.
“Zeus Jr.” vindicated those who believed in him, as the former Oklahoma product thrived alongside Yanda, Stanley and company. Although he’s the third-best offensive lineman in the starting lineup, Brown would almost surely be a marquee lineman on many other NFL teams.
Still, Brown’s contributions this season are hard to overlook. He allowed three sacks and committed three penalties on the year but largely held his own against whoever he was matched up against, fortifying the right side of the offensive line. Brown was rewarded with his first career Pro Bowl nomination, which likely won’t be the last based on his upside.
One of the most disappointing developments of the season was the sudden loss of starting C Matt Skura, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Rams in Week 11. While it didn’t appear to be too significant of an injury at first, Skura wound up tearing multiple ligaments in his knee, including his ACL, MCL and PCL. To make matters worse, he also dislocated his kneecap.
To be frank, it’s gruesome and the worst-case scenario.
It’s especially unfortunate when you consider the context. For the first half of the season, Skura had been playing at a fairly high level. The former Duke product entered the year as the biggest weak link of the offense in the eyes of many but was far from that through Week 11, instead putting forth maybe the best performance of his career.
Now, his future in Baltimore and playing days are clouded. Still, it’s only fair to grade him based on his on-field showing this season and 11 games is a solid sample size. Skura was solid when on the field and healthy.
When Skura went down mid-game against the Rams, undrafted free agent Patrick Mekari was thrust into a large role and didn’t miss a beat. Mekari immediately held his own against a fearsome Los Angeles front-seven and played admirably in the team’s next two games, again versus strong front lines in the 49ers and Bills.
Frankly, it was hard to even forget that Mekari, not Skura, was starting at center over the team’s final stretch of games, as the offense continued to hum along at a historic pace despite the change in the middle of the offensive line. Mekari’s life was certainly made easier by the level of talent around him but he still deserves credit for stepping in and performing well in short notice.
The caveat here, though, is that against the Titans in the postseason, his limitations were noticeable. Mekari was pushed around with relative ease and struggled to generate any sort of momentum against Tennessee’s defensive front.
Overall, Mekari did well enough to earn himself a shot to return as the team’s starting center next year. However, if Baltimore does opt to seek an upgrade, Mekari would be an extremely valuable backup who can play multiple positions.