By: Ashley Anderson
No Baltimore Ravens position group has undergone more changes this offseason than the offensive line. From the departure of Orlando Brown Jr. to the additions of Kevin Zeitler, Alejandro Villanueva, and Ben Cleveland, the personnel shake-up is eye-popping. Throw in a position change from Bradley Bozeman and the return of Ronnie Stanley from a serious ankle injury, and there is plenty of intrigue with this crew.
3.) How will Alejandro Villanueva handle switching from left to right tackle?
When the Ravens acquired Alejandro Villanueva to shore up the hole left by Orlando Brown Jr., they knew they would be requiring the 32-year-old to switch sides in more ways than one. Not only did they steal him away from a division rival, but they were also moving him from left to right tackle. Villanueva, who served two tours with the Army in Afghanistan, has been through tougher.
As a left tackle, Villanueva is a two-time Pro Bowler. His durability has been tip-top, starting 91-straight contests for Pittsburgh. Although he experienced a bit of a drop-off in play last season, that was partially due to how often the Steelers were passing the ball. Baltimore employs an entirely different scheme with more focus on the run. Their quarterback is also significantly more mobile.
The biggest question is how well Villanueva will handle the transition to the opposite side of the line. Oftentimes, players have experience in multiple positions, making the switch a bit easier. With Villanueva, the last time he played a different spot was in 2015 when he was used as a swing tackle.
Still, there seems to be less pressure on right tackles in the NFL. A move away from the blindside could be the refresher Villanueva’s career needs. Either way, he is an elder statesman on the line, and the Ravens will look to him to fill a leadership role.
2.) Will Bradley Bozeman clean up the snap issues that plagued the Baltimore Ravens in 2020?
Let me start by saying this was a huge question before the Ravens even began training camp. However, following a rough first day of practice where Bozeman was cited for multiple poor snaps, fans were already burying their faces in their hands. A bad snap in Baltimore’s offense completely throws off the very complex timing of their plays. In short, they can ill afford for it to happen.
In fairness to Bozeman, that was his first practice at center with a live audience of fans. During OTAs, things seemed to be a bit less exciting, which is how they should be. Bozeman is also playing center again for the first time since 2018, so he deserves a bit of slack.
One thing that seemed to improve Bozeman’s snaps was switching from a full glove to a half glove. For some players, a simple equipment change can make all the difference. Training camp is the time to work out those glitches before taking on live opponents. Since adjusting, he appears to have bounced back and performed well.
Lamar Jackson’s return to practice should help answer even more questions. Jackson’s cadence is obviously different from Trace McSorley and Tyler Huntley. Bozeman will need to develop timing and chemistry quickly with Jackson to be successful.
1.) When will Ronnie Stanley return for the Baltimore Ravens
Without a doubt, this is the biggest question looming over the offensive line. Losing an All-Pro left tackle who is considered one of if not the best in the league would be insurmountable for most teams. The Ravens managed to make the playoffs after Stanley went down with a major ankle injury in Week 8 last season. Still, their line was badly weakened.
Initially, reports were that Stanley would be back in time for training camp. Head Coach John Harbaugh indicated the plan was always for Stanley to miss OTAs and minicamp. However, they expected his return in late July. As of this publication, he has yet to emerge.
The Ravens are gearing up for their first preseason game on August 14th against the New Orleans Saints, but it seems unlikely Stanley will be among those in uniform. It is a bit early to have serious concerns, yet fans will not feel better till they see number 79 lined up on Lamar Jackson’s blindside. As the anchor of a newly minted offensive line, there is a lot of responsibility on Stanley’s shoulders.
Of course, Baltimore’s training staff want to make sure Stanley is fully healed to avoid the risk of re-injury. It would do them no good to rush things and have complications. Surely, Stanley is pushing to return as soon as possible to make good on the five-year, $98.75 million extension he signed just days before suffering the injury. For now, everyone is waiting with bated breath till he returns.