Will the Ravens’ offensive line protect Joe Flacco even better next season?
Only one quarterback in the NFL who threw at least 400 passes was sacked fewer times than Flacco last season. That quarterback was Peyton Manning of the Broncos, who was sacked just 17 times, compared to a career-low 19 for Flacco.
As the Ravens prepare for a three-game minicamp that starts Tuesday, the offensive is not a major concern. It's one reason why some are bullish about the Ravens' prospects for next season, like veteran NFL writer Peter King of Sports Illustrated, who has the Ravens No. 1 in his offseason power rankings.
The starting unit returns intact, with starting center Jeremy Zuttah flanked by left tackle Eugene Monroe, left guard Kelechi Osemele, Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, and right tackle Rick Wagner.
Both Zuttah (off-season hip cleanup surgery) and Wagner (foot injury) have been recovering from injuries. But even if they are not 100 percent now, there is plenty of time until Week 1 in September against the Broncos.
While sacks allowed are not the only measure of how well an offensive line protects a quarterback, Flacco was protected well in 2014. In 18 games including the playoffs, there were only four games in which Flacco was sacked twice or more. Not coincidently, the Ravens lost all four of those games.
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Give Flacco credit for extending some plays with his legs and anticipating blitzes. But from week-to-week, Flacco could depend on having a clean pocket in most situations, giving him time to go through his progressions, and to find open receivers.
Don’t expect new offensive coordinator Marc Trestman and offensive line coach Juan Castillo to stray from the zone blocking schemes and pass blocking principles the Ravens used last season. They worked. Running Justin Forsett had a career season (1,366 yards), so neither Forsett nor Flacco were complaining about the offensive line.
Next season could be the last one that Yanda and Osemele play together. Both are entering the final year of their contract, and it will be difficult for the Ravens to re-sign both.
However, worrying about the offensive line is not keeping coach John Harbaugh awake at night heading into minicamp. The Ravens have a solid front five. And next season it could be even better.