Breaking Down Offensive Line Improvements

The Ravens offensive line has received a lot of criticism this season.

But the unit was dramatically better in Chicago, leading to a big day for running back Ray Rice and a season-high 131 rushing yards.

So what led to the improvement?

After watching the tape on Monday, Head Coach John Harbaugh had a detailed assessment.

"The yardage is better, the schemes were better, the combination blocks were better," he said.

Harbaugh elaborated, saying the offensive linemen did a better job of identifying which linebacker they were supposed to be working to block. The Ravens often initially double team a defensive lineman, then one blocker sheds to take on a linebacker. The angle has to be precise to catch the linebacker at the right time, and it mostly was Sunday.

Baltimore also did a good job of getting the Bears linemen running, moving laterally so they could open holes. They didn't have as many stops for negative yardage.

"We stopped penetration a little bit better up front," Harbaugh said. "We had fewer situations where we had to navigate a defensive lineman in the backfield."

The improvement Harbaugh referenced was seen from the start on Ray Rice's 47-yard rumble. On the play, tight end Ed Dickson and Monroe worked well together to get two linemen turned and moving laterally. Left guard A.Q. Shipley slipped through and took out the linebacker, springing Rice down the sideline.

Looking at the tape and grades from Pro Football Focus (PFF), center Gino Gradkowski and right guard Marshal Yanda were especially exemplary. Every lineman except for right tackle Michael Oher (-0.4) received positive grades for run blocking, led by Yanda ( 6.7) and left tackle Eugene Monroe ( 4.1), respectively.

It was the best game* *of the year for Yanda ( 7.7) and Gradkowski ( 3.6), according to PFF.  Of Rice's 131 rushing yards, 123 came when running on either side of Gradkowski.

Gradkowski was at the center, literally and figuratively, of much of the criticism of the Ravens offensive line. But the first-time starter has gradually improved over the course of the season. He didn't allow a quarterback pressure in Chicago and has only yielded one sack over the past six weeks.

"I feel like the game experience has really helped me out. I feel more and more comfortable," Gradkowski said. "With how hard we work as an offensive line, it's bound to happen. We're going to get better. We've just got to keep working hard."

The Ravens offensive line will find it difficult to repeat this Sunday. The New York Jets are tops in the league in run defense, allowing just 73.2 rushing yards per game. The Bears, conversely, were ranked 31st in run defense entering Sunday's game.

"We caught a couple breaks in Chicago that we weren't catching," Gradkowski said. "You just keep pounding the rock and eventually things will happen and big runs will bust through there."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content