Alejandro Villanueva, Baltimore Ravens reach 2-year deal - Jamison Hensley
Villanueva, 32, started at left tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers for the past six seasons but would fit in with the Ravens’ supersized offensive line on the right side. He ranked 18th last season in run block win rate — three spots higher than Brown (21st) — which should fit in with a Baltimore offense that ran the ball on a league-high 50.3% of plays from scrimmage last season.
The Ravens also get a safety net for left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who is coming off a season-ending ankle injury and hasn’t played a full 16-game season in his five-year career. Villanueva made 90 starts at left tackle from 2015 to 2020 and reached the Pro Bowl in 2017 and 2018.
This potentially gives Baltimore one of the most formidable-looking offensive lines in the league with left tackle Stanley (6-foot-6, 315 pounds), left guard Ben Cleveland (6-6, 357), center Bradley Bozeman (6-5, 325), right guard Kevin Zeitler (6-4, 315) and right tackle Villanueva (6-9, 320).
Regardless, the Ravens should still have one of the best running games in the NFL for the third straight season because the nucleus of the offensive line returns, including left tackle Ronnie Stanley and guards Bradley Bozeman and Ben Powers. The Ravens also added veteran guard Kevin Zeitler, who is expected to start on the right side. With either Villanueva or Kelly, the Ravens will have a formidable group.
Timing, though, will be a problem. The Ravens can load up on bulk, but offensive line play is as much about rhythm. That means the Ravens could be playing musical chairs for a while. There will be limitations on player participation during offseason training, and that could change depending on any coronavirus spikes.
The left guard competition should be one of the best in training camp with Powers, Ben Bredeson and rookie Ben Cleveland battling for the starting spot. Stanley is the best lineman on the team, but there are questions about when he might return because of an ankle injury that required two surgeries last season.
Somehow, the Ravens have to bring this all together. Fortunately, they have a very good offensive line coach in Joe D’Alessandris, and offensive coordinator Greg Roman specializes in building an effective running game.
“I don’t want to call it an embarrassment of riches, but when you talk about Hollywood and Devin and Miles, I really feel good about the guys we have,” Roman said, via the team’s official website. “This offense is really one that runs through Lamar. We’re always going to do what gives us the best chance to win. When you add talent like that, it’s really going to expand our profile quite a bit, actually. To play with the kind of balance that we really want to play with.
“I really think it will probably take some pressure off guys that have been here like Marquise, free him up a little bit as well. The field’s about 53 yards wide, and I think people are going to have to defend all 53 yards of it.”
“Definitely some things that people are going to see from us that they haven’t seen before,” Roman said. “Our staff is working really hard and diligently on that. When you really look at who we have to beat in the AFC these days, you’ve got to have talent everywhere. There’s some really good teams out there. I really feel great about what we’re building here. Schematically wise, we’re always going to change it a little bit. I’d probably say more so this year than we did last year.”
RAVENS 2021 NFL SCHEDULE STRENGTH, WIN TOTAL, ODDS: WILL BALTIMORE PASS MORE THIS SEASON WITH NEW RECEIVING WEAPONS FOR LAMAR JACKSON? - Matt Severance
Baltimore Ravens trends/ William Hill Sportsbook odds
2020 record: 11-5 (10-5-1 against the spread, 7-9 Over/Under)
2021 strength of schedule rank: 2nd (opponents’ combined winning percentage of .563)
2021 Over/Under win total: 11.0
SportsLine Projection Model forecasted wins: 11.1
To win AFC: +650
To win AFC North: +115
To make playoffs: Yes -360, no +280
NFL MVP odds: Lamar Jackson +1600
Baltimore Ravens Home Opponents
Cincinnati Bengals: Ravens won 27-3 last year to snap three-game ATS home skid vs. Bengals
Cleveland Browns: Baltimore was -7 at home last year and blew out Browns 38-6 in Week 1
Pittsburgh Steelers: Pittsburgh has covered three of its past four on road in series
Kansas City Chiefs: K.C. was +3.5 in Baltimore last season and won 34-20
Los Angeles Chargers: Will be Ravens’ first-ever in-person look at Justin Herbert
Indianapolis Colts: Baltimore was short dog in Indy last year and won 24-10
Green Bay Packers: Ravens won last meeting 23-0 in Green Bay four years ago
Minnesota Vikings: Teams have split the past four meetings overall SU & ATS
Los Angeles Rams: Baltimore has won past four in series, last in 2019 (3-0-1 ATS)
Baltimore Ravens Road Opponents
Cincinnati Bengals: Ravens rolled 38-3 last year and have covered three of past four in Cincy
Cleveland Browns: Cleveland has covered just two of past 10 at home in series (last in 2018)
Pittsburgh Steelers: Baltimore is 4-0-1 ATS in past five in Steel City after close loss in 2020
Denver Broncos: First meeting since 2018, a 27-14 Ravens home victory
Las Vegas Raiders: Ravens have won past two overall vs. Raiders but this will be first trip to Vegas
Miami Dolphins: Teams opened 2019 season vs. one another in Miami and Ravens won 59-10
Chicago Bears: Chicago has won past two meetings, last 27-24 on road in 2017
Detroit Lions: Ravens on 3-0 SU & ATS run vs. Lions with last meeting in 2017