The Ravens' greatest summer home repair is the offensive run game.
Last year, Baltimore ranked at the bottom of the NFL in average yards per carry (3.1). It needs to improve, especially considering Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak's new system is based around the run. If you can't run, it won't work.
So far, the early indications of a bounce-back year are positive. Through a couple weeks of organized team activities and installing of Kubiak's zone run scheme, two of the Ravens' offensive linemen feel confident Baltimore's ground attack will be improved in 2014.
"We're pretty confident, especially with Coach Kubiak's zone scheme coming in here and really getting on the ball fast, and flying around and getting to our landmarks and stuff like that," left guard Kelechi Osemele said. "I really feel confident about that."
"We've got to run the ball to win. That's what it comes down to," added left tackle Eugene Monroe. "I believe that we'll do a good job of that."
Last year, Baltimore was forced to get away from the run game when it simply wasn't effective enough. They went to more of a spread offense, opting for tosses to a single back or even empty backfields. The Ravens ranked 18th in the NFL in total carries (423).
Monroe is taking the mindset that last year's run game struggles never happened. The Ravens are moving on from that.
"Honestly, what happened last year doesn't matter. It's a new year; everyone has the same opportunity to make a statement," he said. "I think everything is new. … I think [Gary] wants to run the ball a little bit, which would be fun."
This year, the Ravens will do less straight ahead run blocking. There will be fewer combination blocks. Baltimore wants to get defensive linemen moving laterally in order to find seams in the line that will allow running backs to quickly get uphill.
"It's not just the scheme, but it's also the pace that we move at. It's going to be really good to get guys out here running [while] also changing it up to go downfield," Osemele said.
With Monroe starting at left tackle and Osemele penciled in as at left guard, Baltimore should have a talented, beefy and athletic combo on that end of the line.
The Ravens struggled to run on that side last year, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). The analytics website graded the Ravens at -27.0 when running outside the left tackle, -3.4 when running behind the left tackle, and -9.1 behind the left guard. The only place where Baltimore received a positive grade ( 8.5) was behind Pro Bowl right guard Mashal Yanda.
"I feel like, by the time the season starts, we'll be able to run anywhere," Monroe said.
There's obviously a long ways to go, however. Osemele said Kubiak's run system is "pretty complicated" and there's an "extensive playbook."
The linemen can't fully engage in the trenches yet, so it's impossible to tell how far they've come along. That evaluation will have to wait until the pads start popping.
But the early outlook is a positive one.
"It's been coming together well," Osemele said. "We're not where we need to be, but we'll get there. I feel like everybody's basically building blocks every day, everybody's getting more comfortable with the system. I feel like probably midway through camp we'll have it down."