Baltimore Ravens Offensive Line Key to Success


The Baltimore Ravens have been known for two things since their inception in the NFL: their defense and running game.

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The Ravens have had some terrific running backs in their 20 years in the league. Jamal Lewis is the franchise all-time leading rusher and his 2,066 yards in 2003 is third best in league history. Priest Holmes had his best years with the Kansas City Chiefs, but he still put up great numbers for Baltimore. Ray Rice the football player was damn good in his prime. Last season, it was Justin Forsett that shined as the lead back for Baltimore.

The common denominator for each of these running backs is that they played behind one of the top offensive lines in football. That is the part of the Ravens history that is generally overlooked.

The team’s very first draft pick in 1996 was an offensive tackle who revolutionized the position. Jonathan Ogden was a nine-time AP All-Pro and is now a NFL Hall of Famer. Edwin Mulitalo played alongside Ogden to form one of the most dominant left sides in football. The Ravens have always had some terrific centers in Mike Flynn, Jason Brown and Matt Birk. Orlando Brown and Ben Grubbs were terrific in their time in Baltimore. The Ravens offensive line has been underrated for years, and the present unit is phenomenal as well.

Pro Football Focus rated the Ravens offensive line as the third best following the 2014 season, headlined by Marshal Yanda, who was the top-rated offensive lineman at any position.

The team was fourth in their run block rating, while finishing seventh in pass protection rating. Here is PFF breakdown of the unit:

"“The impact of Gary Kubiak was felt almost instantly, but especially at the guard’s spot where both Yanda and Kelechi Osemele had tremendous years. The development of Ricky Wagner was another reason to celebrate, though the investment in Eugene Monroe didn’t quite pan out.”"

The Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles garner much of the attention when it comes to offensive line play and it is deservingly so. The Cowboys feature some massive guys who maul opposing teams, while the Eagles are a more athletic line who beat you with their speed and technique. It is no surprise that those two teams finished 1-2 in PFF’s rankings.

Baltimore is not only blessed with terrific play along the line, but they also have one of the better contract situations for the position throughout the league. The Ravens are contractually ranked 12th in the NFL along the offensive line, with Yanda and Monroe accounting for the majority of the approximately $22.4 million the team will spend on its big guys.

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Yanda is the final year of a contract extension he signed in 2011, and will count for $8.45 million against the cap. Monroe has a price tag of $7.7 million is season. Osemele is arguably the league’s biggest bargain on the offensive line, earning just $1.064 million this upcoming season. Ricky Wagner was an absolute steal in terms of play last season and he will account for just $621K in cap space.

Next season is when things get dicey. As we’ve previously noted, both Yanda and Osemele are destined to be free agents following this season. Ozzie Newsome would love to keep both on the roster, but the finances likely won’t allow it. One of the terrific guards will likely be donning a different uniform in 2016.

For this season, the Baltimore Ravens will once again have one of the top lines in the NFL. Barring injury – that is always the huge question mark with linemen – they have all the pieces to make a significant run once again.

Forsett and Joe Flacco must love lining up behind this front.

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