Last season, the Ravens’ suffered two significant absences on the offensive line. Marshal Yanda retired, leaving a Hall of Fame gaping hole at right guard and then Ronnie Stanley suffered a season-ending injury in November. These two losses forced many shuffles across the line and eventually led to them bouncing out of the playoffs from the Buffalo Bills defensive line overwhelming their blockers.
Baltimore quickly retooled their blocking unit this offseason with multiple familiar faces as additions.
Kevin Zietler was the first, after being cut by the New York Giants. The early release allowed for the Ravens to land him before free agency’s official start and also not be penalized in the compensatory pick formula. This addition is as close to filling Yanda’s absence as you can get. And as previously mentioned, he’s a familiar face in the AFC North, being originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals and then also playing for the Cleveland Browns.
The second addition is the title name; recently added Alejandro Villanueva. The Ravens were a rotational unit at right guard after Stanley went down, forcing Orlando Brown Jr. to left tackle. The rotation featured rookie Tyre Phillips and D.J. Fluker, and both struggled at times.
The 2021 NFL Draft resulted in the Ravens landing one offensive lineman: Ben Cleveland. Standing at an astounding 6-foot-6 and 335 lbs., Cleveland will be a mauler of a lineman who many are penciling as the new starting left guard, moving Bradley Bozeman to his college position of center. With this addition, and the many linemen already on the roster in development, there will be quite a competition in the near future.
Now, once all healthy, the Ravens will boast a formidable unit from left to right.
Last season, even after the re-shuffling of blockers and modified scheme to crutch the offense along, the Ravens managed to steamroll through opposing defenses with a dominant run game. By seasons’ end, they boasted an average of 192 rushing yards per game. With two new solid additions and high potential in a third, the offense could very well be just as dominant, if not more so, in 2021.
In the passing game, this is something also worth valuing. Jackson has had ample time to throw throughout his tenure with the Ravens. That started to fade last season with the injuries and defensive adjustments, but with the additions bolstering the unit, expect more of the same.
According to Sports Info Solutions, Villanueva produced only 27 “blown blocks” on 1,022 snaps last season. The difference between Villanueva and Brown Jr. isn’t that large, either, with Brown totaling 16 “blown blocks” on 979 total snaps.
Fortunately for the Ravens, they don’t pass nearly as frequently when compared to the Pittsburgh Steelers offense. There is a drop off between the two but not nearly as much as being discussed on social media since the news of Villanueva’s signing.
Overall, the Ravens created an offensive line worthy of blocking for Baltimore’s running and passing unit. The draft, coupled with some free agent signings, will no doubt be a positive impact on the gridiron in 2021.