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Ravens News 2/5: OL Foundation

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Baltimore Ravens v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Robin Alam/ISI Photos/Getty Images

John Harbaugh ‘heartbroken’ Ravens missed opportunity to play in this season’s Super Bowl

Jeff Zrebiec, The Athletic

Harbaugh was predictably prepared for the questions about the offensive approach against a Chiefs team that struggles to stop the run. The game plan, put together by offensive coordinator Todd Monken and his staff and backed by Harbaugh, has been thoroughly scrutinized and panned by analysts and pundits since Sunday.

Harbaugh, who described himself as “heartbroken” about the loss and his team’s failure to advance to the Super Bowl, said he understood the reaction and the criticism.

“When you look at the way the game played out, you can understand it from a football perspective, but once you get through all that, you come back, you want to run the ball against the Chiefs. There’s no doubt about it,” Harbaugh said. “We did want to run the ball against the Chiefs and we weren’t able to get to it.”

Since the 2019 season, the Ravens are 2-4 in the playoffs. In most of those losses, they’ve shown little resemblance to the team they were in the regular season. Harbaugh said that’s “definitely a fair criticism.”

50 Words or Less: Lamar Jackson’s Next Step

Ryan Mink,

The Ravens’ AFC Championship loss reignited the “Lamar doesn’t win in the playoffs” narrative. I think it’s hogwash. Jackson had a historically good performance just one week earlier versus Houston. He didn’t play his best game against the Chiefs, but that’s not because of some deep embedded flaw.

The Ravens gave Jackson the keys to the offense all season long and it paid off handsomely. Baltimore’s coaches did so again for a trip to the Super Bowl. Harbaugh said Friday, a “big part” of the game plan versus the Chiefs were run-pass options. Jackson often chose pass.

One season-long issue that reared its head versus the Chiefs was the failure to hit deep shots, particularly to the sidelines, consistently enough. That’s something that needs to be improved this offseason for Jackson and the Ravens offense to take the next step forward. I bet it will.

Five things we learned from the Ravens’ 2023 season

Childs Walker, The Baltimore Sun

It’s time for the Ravens to build their offensive line of the future

DeCosta and Harbaugh have said repeatedly that no offensive tweaks amount to more than a hill of beans without a top offensive line as the foundation.

The Ravens’ line held up its end of the bargain in 2023, even as the coaching staff had to help tackles Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses play through lingering injuries by rotating in Patrick Mekari and Daniel Faalele. But this was a veteran group. Stanley will be 30 and Moses 33 at the start of next season. Zeitler, whom the Ravens would have to re-sign, will be 34.

The Ravens could go the experienced route again in 2024, figuring the short-term play is a smart one for a contender, but the odds of any of these guys being around in 2025 are probably 50-50 at best.

DeCosta could also go the other way and move on from Moses and Zeitler, though they have given the Ravens very good work at a modest cost. Though the Ravens would eat almost $18 million in dead money if they cut Stanley before June 1, he’s also not the foundational piece he was four years ago.

Though the stories are different for each player, the collective message is apparent: The Ravens don’t have all the linemen they will need to protect Jackson in 2024, much less 2025 and 2026. DeCosta has to draft blockers who are ready to play right away. There’s no clearer priority for this year’s draft.

Defensive line coach Anthony Weaver becomes latest to leave Ravens staff for promotion

Luke Jones, Baltimore Positive

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and new defensive coordinator Zach Orr have a lot of work to do to fill out Baltimore’s defensive staff with assistant head coach and defensive line coach Anthony Weaver becoming the latest to depart for a promotion elsewhere.

Weaver becomes the third defensive coach to leave the organization, joining former defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald (new Seattle head coach) and former defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson (new Tennessee defensive coordinator). The Ravens must also hire a new inside linebackers coach with Orr replacing Macdonald. Pass game coordinator and secondary coach Chris Hewitt is the longest-tenured member of Baltimore’s defensive staff and is expected to remain after being interviewed by Jacksonville for its defensive coordinator opening, a job that went to former New Orleans and Atlanta assistant Ryan Nielsen.

Senior Bowl matchmaker: Bo Nix to Broncos? Laiatu Latu to Bears? Pairing top NFL Draft prospects with teams

Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports

Missouri EDGE/DL Darius Robinson

Perfect NFL fit: Baltimore Ravens

Every team says it wants to win the physicality battle in the trenches. The Ravens are proactive about that endeavor, typically acquiring larger, almost oversized defensive linemen at every position up front. It’s been a philosophy dating way back to the early years of the Ozzie Newsome era in Baltimore. As a Newsome disciple, current GM Eric DeCosta has continued that personnel philosophy, and Robinson feels like next in line.

He measured in at 6-foot-5 and over 280 pounds at the combine. In college, he played end in Missouri’s mostly three-man fronts but won plenty of one-on-one matchups. This is not an imposing block-eater and nothing more. Baltimore made two late-summer adds that paid huge dividends this past season — Kyle Van Noy and Jadeveon Clowney — but the future at the defensive end spot must be addressed. Robinson could be available close to when the Ravens pick at No. 30 overall. His game, and most of all, his frame emanate Ravens vibes.