Ravens' Offensive Line Continuity Is Rare


For offensive linemen, change is the name of the game. With five players side by side, it's nearly impossible to keep a unit together for an extended period of time.

This year, however, the Ravens are about to wade into new franchise waters.

Baltimore is expected to have the same starting offensive line come Week 1 as they had to begin last year. If so, it would be the first time in team history they've had that luxury.

"It's pretty unusual in today's football to have your whole offensive line back, plus your backups," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "It's a big-time blessing. It's something that should help us be a really good football team."

The Ravens' starting offensive line is once again expected to be Eugene Monroe at left tackle, Kelechi Osemele at left guard, Jeremy Zuttah at center, Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda at right guard and Rick Wagner at right tackle.

Zuttah (hip) and Wagner (foot) aren't cleared to be back on the field yet during mandatory minicamp, but Osemele said that Zuttah is running and Wagner shouldn't be far behind.

Last year, the Ravens swapped Wagner for Michael Oher at right tackle and traded for Zuttah to take over in the middle. The year before, the Ravens traded for Monroe to replace Bryant McKinnie midway through the year. In 2012, Osemele was a rookie starter at right tackle, the team had a revolving cast at left guard, and Oher was at left tackle before McKinnie caught fire in the playoffs.

The list of change goes on and on and on.

Stability breeds comfort and allows players to get better because they're getting practice reps and experience in one position alongside the same teammates. They can anticipate what their line mates are going to do.

"When you're working as an offensive line, everybody has to kind of move as one piece," Osemele said. "We feel like we're definitely going to have that with everybody coming back."

There's currently a debate about which team has the best offensive line heading into the 2015 season. The Dallas Cowboys had three Pro Bowl linemen last year, and they're all returning. Then Eagles left tackle Jason Peters piped up, saying the Cowboys are overhyped and "guy for guy, they can't touch us."

Well, what about the Ravens?

The Ravens allowed the second-fewest sacks last year (19), and paved the way for 2,019 rushing yards, eighth most in the league. SB Nation's Adam Stites gave the top spot to Baltimore.

"I'm not much for words," Yanda said. "We'll do our talking in September when the games count.

"I think we should have a great year. That's the expectation. Obviously, we did well last year. We want to build on that and be better this year. ... Everybody has things to work on. We're all excited to go get after teams this fall."

It's not just a matter of having the starters back either. Yanda said it feels like the Ravens have the most depth he's seen since he joined the team as a third-round pick in 2007. He specifically pointed to left tackle James Hurst and guard/center John Urschel.

Hurst, who started seven games as an undrafted rookie last year, has bulked up this offseason. Urschel, who started five games, is drawing positive reviews for his intelligence in the middle.

With Hurst and Urschel slated to be super subs, the Ravens really have a returning top seven offensive linemen. "[Offensive Line Coach] Juan [Castillo] has been doing a good job of developing them," Yanda said. "There are a lot of guys on the offensive line that can play football, not just the starters."

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