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Eisenberg: Ravens Thinking Big (Really Big) With Offensive Line


A few months ago, the Ravens said they planned to undertake at least a partial rebuilding of their offensive line. They haven't finished the job.

We still don't know who will start at center. We still don't know who will start at right tackle. We can pencil Alex Lewis into the starting five, but his position is TBD – to be determined.

Understandably, fans are concerned about who will fill the vacancies and how things will play out. A stout offensive line is essential to a winning blueprint in 2017.

But as the offseason progresses, I've noted a difference between how the public views the situation and how the organization views it. Sorry if this sounds like Dr. Seuss, but while the public frets about WHO and HOW, the organization is focused on WHAT – as in, what kind of line it wants.

Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome identified the goal at the end-of-season press conference in January.

"We need to improve the offensive line," Newsome said, and then he drilled deeper: "We need to get bigger and stronger."


One way or another, no matter who plays, the Ravens intend to become more forceful up front, harder to budge, stronger at the point of attack.

"If we are going to improve offensively, I think it starts with the offensive line," Assistant GM Eric DeCosta told my colleague Ryan Mink at the Senior Bowl. "We have to get more physical as an offensive line."

Bingo, again.

A desire to get bigger and stronger is why the team traded Jeremy Zuttah, a solid veteran center, without an obvious replacement plan. Zuttah was adept at many aspects of the job, but weighed well under 300 pounds and got pushed around at times.

Nick Mangold, a veteran free agent center the Ravens have kicked the tires on, weighs 307 pounds.

The desire to become more formidable up front also guided the Ravens' draft philosophy this year. Nico Siragusa, a guard taken in the fourth round, was listed at 332 pounds at the combine. (The Ravens list him at 320.) Jermaine Eluemunor, a tackle taken in the fifth round, weighs 330.

Both are larger than several recent draft picks such as John Urschel and, going back a few years, Gino Gradkowski. There's no telling when or if the new guys will become factors, but the Ravens' big-picture plan is clear.

Of course, size is only part of the equation with linemen. There's also attitude, ruggedness, etc. Marshal Yanda weighs 305 pounds and he's a six-time Pro Bowler at guard.

A year ago, the Ravens used the No. 6 overall pick to draft Ronnie Stanley, a 320-pound tackle. Then they found their ideal blend of size and attitude in 315-pound Lewis, a fourth-round pick. Lewis, 25, has been a starter since he showed up, and I can seldom recall the coaches heaping praise on a young player so quickly.

"I think he's going to be a Pro Bowl player down the line," Head Coach John Harbaugh said in March.

Stanley will anchor the line going forward, but Lewis' versatility makes him the key to this year's rebuilding job. The Ravens prefer him at guard, where Pro Football Focus graded him higher than any NFL rookie in 2016. But he can also play center or right tackle if needed.

Right now, the only certainties are Stanley at left tackle, Yanda at right guard and Lewis somewhere. A handful of free agents are available, including Mangold, but I get the feeling the Ravens want to gauge their internal possibilities first. With a new line coach, Joe D'Alessandris, and a new run-game guru, Greg Roman, on board, surprises could unfold.

Such as? Well, Ryan Jensen only has nine starts in three years, but he's a mauler with the right size, a sleeper candidate at center. Stephane Nembot is a project at right tackle, but he's a massive, strong dude. De'Ondre Wesley is another big, strong tackle. The Ravens would love for Siragusa to become another plug-and-play fourth rounder, like Lewis a year ago.

One thing we know for sure is the Ravens are aiming big, figuratively and literally.

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