As the Ravens have talked about improving their offense next season, a common theme has been finding ways to get better in the trenches. Whether it's protecting quarterback Joe Flacco or clearing lanes in the running game, upgrading the offensive line is a clear charge going into the offseason.
"If we're going to improve offensively, I think it starts up front," Assistant General Manager Eric DeCosta said last week at the Senior Bowl. "We have to get more physical as an offensive line."
Getting more physical can take shape in a variety of ways, and it's unclear exactly the type of offensive linemen the Ravens prefer in their offensive scheme. The stretch-zone system they've used in recent years often utilizes smaller, athletic*linemen *rather than the heavy blockers that can just overpower defenders.
With Marty Mornhinweg having a full offseason to put his stamp on the offense, and the addition of veteran offensive assistant Greg Roman, it's unclear how they will tweak the running scheme this offseason.
They could opt to go with bigger, more physical players, which would alter the types of prospects they target in the draft or free agency.
"I think what we're looking for are good football players," DeCosta said. "If the guy is a really good athlete, a special athlete, and a really good player, then we can work with him. If a guy is a big, massive, point-of-attack mauler, and a really good football player, we can work with him."
The Ravens have used both types of players in recent years. Center Jeremy Zuttah (6-foot-4, 300 pounds) fits into the more athletic mold, while former left guard Kelechi Osemele (6-5, 330) could win battles with his size.
It's also somewhat up in the air where the Ravens want to add new linemen. Zuttah, right guard Marshal Yanda, left tackle Ronnie Stanley and left guard Alex Lewis are all under contract for next season. The only starter slated to become a free agent is right tackle Rick Wagner.
The Ravens could look to the draft to provide depth to groom behind the incumbent starters, or they may also play the free-agency market to add competition to the group.
"The key is being a smart, tough, aggressive athlete who knows how to play the game of football, who is durable, and has the right mentality to fit the Ravens," DeCosta said.