We've hit the slow time of the NFL calendar, the time when there's a whole lot more debate than news.
Thus, over the rest of this week, we will debate some of the most pressing issues facing the Ravens as they enter the 2022 season.
How Does the Offensive Line Shake Out?
Improving the offensive line was a big priority on General Manager Eric DeCosta's offseason to-do list, and some key changes have been made.
It started during free agency when the Ravens signed veteran right tackle Morgan Moses. It continued during the draft, when the Ravens took center Tyler Linderbaum with the 25th-overall pick and added offensive tackle Daniel Faalele in the fourth round.
Head Coach John Harbaugh gave an encouraging update on All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley after mandatory minicamp, and the Ravens are hopeful he will be ready Week 1. Heading into training camp, Stanley, Linderbaum, right guard Kevin Zeitler and Moses are the presumed starters once the season begins.
The biggest decision is left guard, where Tyre Phillips, Ben Cleveland, Ben Powers and Patrick Mekari could emerge as the Week 1 starter. Because of Mekari's versatility as a valued veteran who can play all five offensive line positions, it could come down to Phillips, Cleveland or Powers as the starter at left guard. Phillips won the starting job out of camp last year, but Powers took over after he was injured in Week 1, then Cleveland stepped in to finish out the year.
The Ravens didn't protect Lamar Jackson in the pocket as well as they wanted last season when he was sacked a career-high 38 times. But the addition of Moses, Linderbaum and a healthy Stanley could help give the Ravens one of the NFL's best offensive lines again. That's vitally important for a team that relies on its running game as much as Baltimore.
Both Linderbaum and Moses have fit in seamlessly so far. Moses was vocal and engaged at mandatory minicamp, looking like someone who has started 113 NFL games.
"Morgan Moses, he does an amazing job during practice working with the younger guys, offering little tidbits of information, helping them improve their technique, really keeping the whole thing kind of flowing together," General Manager Eric DeCosta said.
Linderbaum has looked unfazed by expectations during offseason workouts, knowing the Ravens are counting on him to be the team's new center.
"We've had very good luck with Iowa players over the years," DeCosta said. "Marshal Yanda, to me, Hall of Famer someday. When we look at a guy like Tyler Linderbaum, we see a lot of the same qualities – tough, gritty, very, very athletic, very intelligent, smart, the type of guy who could really be the centerpiece of your offensive line."
Baltimore lacked depth at tackle last season, which was magnified when Stanley played just one game before undergoing another ankle surgery. However, veteran right tackle Ja'Wuan James participated in mandatory minicamp after missing all of last season with an Achilles injury. Along with James, Faalele and the versatile Mekari, the Ravens believe their offensive line is deeper and better able to cope with potential injuries.
"Pat Mekari still could find his way into the starting lineup. There's no doubt about it," Head Coach John Harbugh said after the draft. "He's a really good player. I'm assuming Tyler is going to come in and start at center – for sure, obviously. We'll see how Ronnie comes back, but all signs point in the right direction.
"We've got a heck of a right tackle, we think, maybe two. We've got two veteran tackles we brought in here. To me, there's going to be a lot of competition for the starting spots, a certain one spot in particular, but then there's going to be competition for those backup spots, big time. The thing we're trying to do is be a physical, punishing offensive line."