The Ravens couldn't invest heavily in every position this offseason. After all, the salary cap demands resource allocation.
But one place where they did spend, both in free agency and the draft, was the offensive line. And players are liking the early returns.
Baltimore inked veteran offensive tackle Morgan Moses this offseason, solidifying the right tackle spot after Orlando Brown Jr.'s departure resulted in a rotating door last year. Then the Ravens used the first-round pick they got in the trade of Marquise Brown to grab the top center in the draft, Tyler Linderbaum.
"We've got the right bricks, now let's build one hell of a wall," veteran right guard Kevin Zeitler said.
"I know we had a lot of turnover on the line this year. I think that's a good thing. We have great vets, we have great young guys coming in, we have talented middle-aged players, and this is good stuff. We're all in the right spot and now it's up to us to put it all together and get it going."
Lamar Jackson was sacked a career-high 38 times last season, despite playing in just 12 games. Jackson was sacked 3.16 times per game. Joe Burrow, who was dropped a league-high 51 times, was sacked 3.18 times per game.
It was clear that Jackson was not comfortable in the pocket last season, especially once teams started sending more and more blitzers. This offseason, the Ravens' mission was to make their star quarterback feel more secure.
"The team is only going to [go as far as] the quarterback, so with him being out here, doing his thing, getting better, working every day, it's amazing for us and I can't wait for him to have his best year ever," Zeitler said.
Much of the offensive line's improvement will come from a healthy return of All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who played just one game last season and less than half of 2020 due to a major ankle injury. By all accounts, Stanley is on track for a full return.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said during minicamp that Stanley's ankle is "looking great" and on the first day of training camp, Harbaugh said Stanley's body composition is "close to where he's been in the past when he's been at his best."
Moses is an established nine-year veteran who hasn't missed a start over the past seven seasons. The Ravens rotated between Alejandro Villanueva, Patrick Mekari and Tyre Phillips at right tackle last season. At just 31 years old, Moses is still moving quite well and he's bringing a level of fun energy, as well as veteran perspective, to the offensive line.
"Everything looks great on paper, but things have to play in place," Moses said. "We have to get comfortable with the offense, we have to get comfortable with each other, learning each other. I've been a part of some great offensive lines in my career and really it's the camaraderie."
Then there's Linderbaum, the 25th-overall pick out of Iowa. The Ravens surprised some pundits by taking the smallest offensive lineman in this year's draft, but Baltimore is banking on Linderbaum's athleticism, toughness, and work ethic.
"I think every great lineman in NFL history – there's always certain traits that stick out," Zeitler said. "Whether it's their natural athleticism, their ability to run, just good football players. I think he has some of those talents.
"The way he runs is not like everyone else, so I think he has some great building blocks, and if he can put it all together, I think he'll be one of the best in the league. He obviously has a long way to go, but I'm excited to work with him, and my goal for him, more than anything, is to make sure he reaches those heights."
Check out the action as the Ravens took the field for their first practice of 2022 training camp at the Under Armour Performance Center.
The only open spot on the offensive line is at left guard, where Ben Powers, Phillips, Ben Cleveland and Mekari will compete for the starting job. It will be one of the best competitions of training camp and one that's too early to handicap, but the Ravens have plenty of quality options and hope one grabs the horns.
Then there's Zeitler, a rugged player the Ravens signed last offseason who had a superb year. Zeitler allowed just one sack on 724 pass blocking reps last season, earning the eighth-highest grade among guards in the NFL from Pro Football Focus.
The Ravens added Zeitler to overcome the loss of Marshal Yanda. It has proven to be an excellent addition, as Zeitler has brought a Yanda-like toughness and leadership to the offensive line. Asked Wednesday how he approaches another training camp, Zeitler gave an "embrace the grind" kind of answer.
"It never actually gets easier, but at the same time, you know it's coming, and you just do it," he said. "Before you know it, it will be over, and then we'll be on to the season, which is where the fun really starts. So, bring it on."