Dec 29, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Baltimore Ravens center Gino Gradkowski (66) against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Bengals defeated the Ravens 34-17. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens Offensive Line Can Only Go Up From Here

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After last year’s debacle on the offensive line, the Ravens can only go up from here. The line messed up the chemistry of the entire offense, from the quarterback, to the running back, to the receivers. Sure Ray Rice didn’t show the same quickness and it was definitely a good part his fault for his disastrous year, but the O-line certainly didn’t help.

The same goes for Joe Flacco. He threw 22 interceptions last season, which is ten more than he’s thrown in any other year. He also ended the year with a career-low 73.1 passer rating. However, the fact that he never had more than three seconds to throw the ball certainly didn’t help.

With that being said, the Ravens have made some moves this offseason in an effort to improve upon that disastrous line. On March 11, they re-signed left tackle Eugene Monroe to a multi-year deal. Monroe was perhaps the best offensive lineman for the Ravens in 2013 and he was guarding Joe Flacco’s blind side ,so inking him to a deal was a priority for them. Three weeks later, the Ravens sent a 2015 draft pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for center Jeremy Zuttah. Zuttah, 27, is a six-year veteran who has started at both guard and tackle. The 6-foot-4, 308-pounder has started 30 games at center, 41 at left guard and five at right guard.

The truth is, anyone is an upgrade over who the Ravens had at center last year. 2012 fourth-round draft pick Gino Gradkowski started all 16 games in his second season. With him at center instead of recently retired Matt Birk, Joe Flacco threw a career-high 22 interceptions, Ray Rice averaged just 3.1 yards-per-carry and the Ravens had their worst record (8-8) in six years. No matter how well Zuttah performs, he should be an upgrade regardless of the situation.

Not only did the Ravens acquire some key pieces to fill out the line, but they are also getting two players back from injuries — two guys who might be their two best offensive lineman. After starting all 16 games in his rookie year and performing very well at the guard position, Kelechi Osemele missed nine games in 2013. This was a big reason why the Ravens offensive line declined so much from the year prior.

An even bigger cause of the poor offensive line play was the fact that Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda was never really healthy throughout the season. Although he started all 16 games, I firmly believe that the thigh injury he suffered lingered throughout the season and it drastically affected his play. With these two guys back healthy and ready to roll, the Ravens are looking to be in much better shape.

After losing right tackle Michael Oher, it isn’t evident as to who will start week one. Right now, it looks like second-year man Ricky Wagner will start at the beginning of the season. As a rookie, Wagner registered just 131 offensive snaps in 2013, so he’s a big unknown. Even if he can become a decent starter, there’s no real depth behind him.The team did sign North Carolina’s James Hurst as an undrafted free agent, so he could possibly add some depth there.

After allowing 48 sacks in 2013 (tied for fourth-most in the league), it won’t be hard to improve on the line’s play

Whatever the case may be, the Ravens offensive line certainly looks a whole lot better this year than it did last season. After allowing 48 sacks in 2013 (tied for fourth-most in the league), it won’t be hard to improve on the line’s play. However, putting 2013 aside, an offensive line consisting of Monroe-Osemele-Zuttah-Yanda-Wagner isn’t that bad. This group should give Joe Flacco more time to throw the ball and it should also give Ray Rice more room to run, thus leading to a better record and a better season for the Baltimore Ravens.

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