Mailbag: How Do the Ravens Improve on the O-Line?

Ravens offense

Mink: I know that Alejandro Villanueva did not have a good game in pass protection in Vegas. Everybody could see that. Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby earned Defensive Player of the Week honors for his big night. However, I think it's too early to pull the plug after one game (and not realistic). Villanueva deserves more time. As he continues to make the transition from left to right tackle, I think he'll get better with each game. How much better, how fast is a fair question.

The Ravens are extremely tight against the salary cap, as there's already been reported contract restructures just to get other deals done. That makes trading for anyone making decent money nearly impossible. Plus, Eric DeCosta has been stockpiling draft picks for next year's loaded class, so I highly doubt he's willing to part with what would probably have to be valuable resources to secure anyone assuredly better than Villanueva.

If the Ravens were able to sign a veteran free agent (again, a big if), Mitchell Schwartz would be the best available. He's a natural right tackle and was very good and reliable for the Kansas City Chiefs before his release in March. His brother, Sirius XM's Geoff Schwartz, said the Ravens should call Mitchell.

Problem is, he had back surgery in February, and still isn't ready to play. He said so himself. Maybe Schwartz would be an option a few weeks from now, but there would still be an acclimation process. Plus, Ja'Wuan James, who is recovering from a torn Achilles on the Ravens' Reserve/Non-Football Injury list, is also waiting in the wings as a potential option in November-December. Russell Okung and Rick Wagner are two other vets on the market, but they probably wouldn't come cheap.

The Ravens signed Villanueva to a two-year deal with a reported $8 million guaranteed. They're banking on him being better than he was against the Raiders (he did well run blocking, by the way). Villanueva can improve as he continues to adjust to his position switch and the Ravens' line gels after not getting a ton of time together in training camp.

Downing: First of all, I don't agree with the notion that the Ravens totally moved away from the running game. They still finished with 34 attempts and 189 yards on the ground. I did think it was somewhat surprising that the Ravens shifted away from Ty'Son Williams after his strong start, but they clearly wanted to get Latavius Murray integrated into the offense. Murray is a talented player, and let's not forget how excited Ravens fans were last week once that signing was announced.

Mink: This is what Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale will be grappling with all week. It's in Martindale's nature to blitz. He does so more than anybody else in the league. However, Patrick Mahomes feasted on it too often in last year's regular-season matchup and watching the Raiders hit a couple big plays by fading and floating deep passes to wide receivers in one-on-one coverage certainly looked like a page out of the Chiefs' playbook. The connection between Mahomes and Tyreek Hill in that situation is off the charts.

The Ravens will still blitz some to hopefully keep Mahomes off-balance, but this is a game where they need to win one-on-one battles in the trenches so they can leave more players in coverage. This is why the Ravens signed Justin Houston and drafted Odafe Oweh in the first round. Now they get to go against Orlando Brown Jr., who the Ravens traded to Kansas City this offseason to get that pick for Oweh. That is a major matchup to watch.

Downing: It won't be easy. We all know the Ravens are 0-3 against the Chiefs with Lamar Jackson as the starting quarterback. I'm sure we'll hear that stat about 100 times this week. There's no doubt that the Chiefs are an excellent team, but let's not act like they're invincible. The Bucs proved that in the Super Bowl and the Browns had them on the ropes last week before their punter coughed up the football deep in their own territory. The Ravens will have to be clicking on all cylinders to take down Kansas City, and I think the Ravens play some of their best football when everyone is doubting them. The pass defense – both coverage and pressure – will have to improve from Monday night, and the offense has to protect the football better. I know just about everyone will be picking the Chiefs to win this game, but I think that's just the way the Ravens like it.

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