The overwhelming issue thus far for the Baltimore Ravens in 2013 has been the lackluster play of the offensive line.
People can blame Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce all they want, given that the Ravens are tied for last in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars for average yards-per-carry with 2.7. However, the offensive line is the main reason for the running and passing game struggles thus far.
It is clear that even bringing in a guy like Eugene Monroe won’t solve all of the problems as the unit collectively stinks this season. It isn’t only center Gino Gradkowski being a microcosm of the entire line’s issues. The “leader” of this group, right guard Marshal Yanda, has had his name called for penalties more often this season than in years past and has struggled holding blocks.
So why the struggles up front?
Did this unit just get lucky last year during the Super Bowl run?
Is the talent simply not there?
Is run-game coordinator Juan Castillo‘s zone-blocking scheme the main reason as to why the offensive line fails to get a significant push off the ball?
I think it’s a little of everything, but mostly the last point.
Castillo has installed this zone-blocking scheme where offensive linemen aren’t necessarily assigned to a player, but a zone or an area of the field. When the lineman take their 45-degree steps, they set out to look for the first guy that shows and turn him outside … that way, the running back can use his athletic ability and vision to find the open creases and gash the opposing defense for a big play.
The problem with this scheme is that the offensive lineman and running backs must fit this blocking style or else you’ll see a lot of stops at the line of scrimmage and in the backfield. Those plays happen a lot in general in this type of offense … look at the Washington Redskins game Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys and chart running back Alfred Morris‘ carries.
Plain and simple, the Ravens don’t have the personnel to run this way. They are more inclined to the power running game that uses pulling guards, tackles and fullbacks. When you have a Pro Bowl fullback in Vonta Leach, he should be used more than a part-time player. That being said, he can’t correct all of the issues with five offensive lineman. Maybe, the personnel has to change or maybe it’s the scheme. Something has to give sooner or later for Baltimore.