When the Ravens traded veteran center Jeremy Zuttah to the San Francisco 49ers in March, they had a plan in mind for their offensive line. They wanted to get bigger and more physical up front, in part to underscore their re-commitment to the running game.
It wasn't that Zuttah couldn't handle the job. He had started 41 games for the Ravens since 2014. In 2016, Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 17 center in the NFL -- right in the middle of the pack.
No matter. The Ravens were moving on. They had a plan.
But then stuff happened. John Urschel, the likely replacement for Zuttah, abruptly retired as training camp began. Rookie guard Nico Siragusa was lost to a season-ending knee injury. Starting guard Alex Lewis was lost to a season-ending shoulder injury.
So much for the plan.
I'm sure the Ravens still want to get bigger up front, but after experiencing so much subtraction, it was time for them to address a more basic concern. They had to make sure they have five healthy, starting-caliber linemen.
That's why they re-signed Zuttah Friday, some five months after trading him. He was cut by the 49ers on Aug. 10, and it's not yet clear whether he'll start ahead of Ryan Jensen, but regardless, he becomes an experienced option – maybe not the rumbler the Ravens envisioned, but someone who can be trusted to handle the job.
If that makes the Ravens sound a tad desperate, well, I think that's a pretty fair depiction of their attitude about their entire offense right now. With the regular-season opener three weeks away, they're still dealing with injuries and uncertainty throughout their lineup on that side of the ball, not just up front.
I mean, where on offense can they say they're completely satisfied and pleased with where things stand?
Not at quarterback, that's for sure. Their starter, Joe Flacco, isn't practicing because of a back injury and won't play until the season opener. Can he go from zero to 60 and play well immediately after missing so much time? Will he and his receivers have chemistry? Most importantly, will his back hold up?
Fair questions, all.
In the backfield, with Kenneth Dixon lost for the season, is there enough talent to man the ramped-up running game the Ravens want? Again, it's a fair question. Terrance West is the acknowledged starter, Danny Woodhead is a pro's pro and Buck Allen has looked good, but I think the Ravens are watching who gets cut elsewhere and continually weighing alternatives. What does that say?
At tight end, well, there's been more subtraction there than at any other position. Dennis Pitta, Crockett Gillmore and Darren Waller are all gone, leaving Nick Boyle, a rugged blocker with 24 career receptions; Benjamin Watson, the team's oldest player at 37; and Maxx Williams, a young player trying to come back from a new kind of knee surgery. Is there enough speed and playmaking?
Oddly enough, if there's any position that looks pretty solid, it's wide receiver, one of the team's biggest concerns through much of the offseason. Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin provide a capable one-two punch of veterans with track records. If Michael Campanaro can stay healthy, he looks like he can help.
Even at receiver, though, there's uncertainty in the form of Breshad Perriman's hamstring injury, which has sidelined him for much of training camp and all of the preseason so far. When will he be healthy enough to run at top speed and contribute?
Look, it could be that the Ravens attain clarity on all of these questions and issues by the time the regular season begins. If Flacco comes back sharp, that alone would make the whole picture look better.
But let's not mince words here. There are a lot of issues at play, a lot of moving parts that need to get synchronized – in a hurry.
I don't want to echo Chicken Little because it's too soon for that, but if you're asking me whether it's right to be concerned about the offense, my short, simple answer is yes.