Ravens Roost

February 16, 2010 9:19 PM

The Ravens young offensive line is still not settled

AV9AUCGCAAB3NQACACEXVGGCAVSXNV7CA65TEKQCAK5SF9OCAWLM5PMCACAGBUVCAJ1EZTOCA7LQ8ZICANRNY7NCAM5FW3ICAI12S6SCAKA6590CAT41K8YCA55CYQICA3Z9S6CCANUKPIHCA9K04XLCA137JJOCA9HJDEA.jpgOzzie Newsome and the Ravens have done a good job of retooling the offensive line, but the job isn't quite complete. Take for instance the addition of Matt Birk. Birk was intended to be a stop gap player, though a very good one, to fill in until the Ravens could draft their center of the future. So that leaves the need acquire that future center as soon as possible.

Matt Birk may only have 1-2 more productive seasons left in him, seeing as how at 33 years of age he has endured 12 seasons in the NFL. That's 266 in dog years. The Ravens front office knows the time to re-stock is now if they want to stay competitive. The trick is finding the right players and placing then in a position where they can excel. Though that's easier said then done most times.....

Center isn't the only position on the offensive line that has question marks. The play last season of Jared Gaither must have left the coaching staff a bit baffled. This was the guy who stepped up big time in 2008 and played with a bad neck and shoulder.  This past season he seemed to lose a little bit of his enthusiasm and that may be a problem. Some players reach a comfort level very quickly in the NFL, but only the truly dominate ones can have true comfort. The rest may be fooling themselves. Gaither either needs a swift kick in the ass, or some face to face wake up call to get him to understand you never stop growing in the NFL. You can never know enough, or have too good a technique. Understanding this is what separates the great ones from all the rest.

With Michael Oher showing that he can play on the left side of the line with great proficiency the Ravens coaching staff may decide to use both of them during training camp to see which one can do the best job. If it's Oher then Gaither will have to battle Marshall Yanda for the right side duties. Yanda started at right tackle in 2007 and did a great job. This past season he was used at right guard, and did an equally good job I might add, but the consensus may be to give him a shot at right tackle if the team has doubts about Gaither. Personally I'm thinking Jared is going to get the message and have his best season to date come this September. Call it a hunch.

The team will also have to decide if the oft injured Adam Terry is still a viable backup. The team was hoping Terry could develop into a starter at either right or left tackle when they drafted him in the 2nd Round in 2005, but between his injuries and sometimes timid play he was reduced to a backup's role. Terry will have to prove his worth during training camp, and should he go down with an injury it may spell the end of his career as a Raven.

Oniel Cousins is another offensive lineman who needs to prove he can jump up to the next level. During his limited playing time this season he made far too many stupid mistakes, often times the result of not being able to control his temper. He needs to learn how to channel his aggressiveness toward being a better player, not an angry one. If he continues to play the way he did against the Steelers this year, being called for multiple personal fouls and offside penalties he's another one who may not be around for long.

Overall the Ravens have a solid, young, athletic group on the offensive line, and if they can remain together they will be one of the best in the NFL. The unit showed improvement this season pulling and stunting and did a better job at pass protection, though there is still room for improvement there. If a talented offensive lineman presents himself during this years draft you can count on the Ravens snatching him up. You can never have too many quality linemen because as you all know, it all starts in the trenches.    

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