OWINGS MILLS, Md. — About three months ago, the Ravens’ offensive line was one of the biggest question marks on the team.
The presumed starting left guard, Jermaine Eluemunor was shipped to New England at the end of August, Marshal Yanda rarely played or practiced and Baltimore was set to rely on the growth of its young tackle-tandem.
In the three months since then, though, they’ve been one of the most consistent units in the NFL. They rarely miss a snap, never get injured and routinely own the line of scrimmage, paving the way for the best rushing attack in the NFL.
“I don’t know if there’s any secret formula,” center Matt Skura said. “Just building consistency through the week and how we work on our technique and fundamentals. Just with our mindset too, every game is the same thing. We want to be tough, physical and be on our assignments every week. That’s just built through chemistry throughout the whole year.”
The starting offensive line — which consists of: Ronnie Stanley, Bradley Bozeman, Skura, Yanda and Orlando Brown Jr. — hasn’t been together for just 90 total snaps out of 700 through the first 10 games.
There’s been only four games where a member of the starting unit missed an offensive snap, and the lone reason for the missed snaps were because of a lopsided score. In those three games, the Ravens won by an average of just over 39 points.
The other game was the first Bengals game, a 23-17 Ravens win. Stanley missed just three snaps.
“We’re doing well as a group,” Yanda said. “We’re a consistent group right now. For you to be a player for a long time in this league, you have to be a consistent player, and I think that all five guys have played consistent football. And that’s what you need.”
Bozeman, Brown and Skura haven’t missed a snap all season long, which has solidified a unit that needed youth to step up. And ask anyone around the Ravens practice facility, they’ll tell you they’ve got two Pro Bowl tackles in Stanley and Brown.
“Just chemistry I think all five of us have, and just the trust we have for one another,” Brown said. “I think we're all playing for each other and all playing for each other's families, and like I said, it's just the chemistry, in my opinion, and the love we have for each other.”
Led by offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris, not only has the offensive line been a model of consistency, they’re leading the way for potentially the best rushing attack in NFL history.
The Ravens currently average 203.1 yards per game. That places the Ravens first in the NFL, by over a 50-yard split, ahead the second-place team.
And not only in 2019, but historically, the Ravens rushing attack is on a record-setting pace.
In 1978, the Patriots rushed for 3,165 yards over 16 games (197.81 per game), which stands as the NFL record. Five years earlier, the Bills rode O.J. Simpson to 3,088 team rushing yards in 14 games, which stands as the NFL’s record for rushing yards per game at 220.5.
The Ravens are on-pace for nearly 3,250 rushing yards, which would make them the NFL’s best rushing team of all-time. They’re about 17 yards short of becoming the best rushing team, in terms of yards per game, in league history.
“We take a lot of pride in that,” Bozeman said. “For an offensive lineman, this is a dream offense to play in. We’re running the ball, we’re throwing the ball, we’re primarily more run than throwing, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
Baltimore, were the season to end today, would end at a 5.65 yards-per-rush clip. That would tie the record for second all-time, the best rate since the 1963 Cleveland Browns.
In many ways, the Ravens’ offense is revolutionizing the way the game is played. In other ways, they’re bringing the game back to a pre-Super Bowl era version of football.
“For me, I think the best way to describe it is physical,” said Skura, describing the Ravens rushing attack. “I always think about physical fundamentals. Every play, we’re just going to get after it. We’re just trying to wear down the defense as much as we can.”
The rushing attack is led by quarterback and MVP-candidate Lamar Jackson, who is currently on-pace to break the single season rushing record for a quarterback previously set by Michael Vick. Jackson is on pace for just under 1,250 yards rushing.
“It starts with Lamar,” Yanda said. “He puts a lot of stress on every single defense, just because of his run threat ability as a quarterback. And obviously, he’s run for a lot of yards.”
Yanda then asked if Jackson had broken the record yet. When told he hadn’t, Yanda replied, “Not yet, but he will.”
Jackson’s ability to run the ball has sent defenses into fits trying to figure out how to slow him down. Then, when the Ravens return to a more typical rushing attack, the offensive line is there to pave the way for the next two leading rushers, Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards.
“So, (Lamar’s) stress that he puts on the defense, No. 1, opens up other areas of the running game,” Yanda said. “So, that’s a complementary system where you have to account for him, No. 1. And then we can run our normal run game, that would be like a normal running game, as an addition to what he does.”
And with the man that leads the rushing attack like Jackson, the offensive line is led in the same way by Yanda.
Yanda, at 35 years of age, is the second-oldest player on the team. The other four linemen average 24-and-a-half years old.
In fact, none of the other four offensive linemen have as many years in the NFL, put together, as Yanda does by himself.
“It all starts with Marshal Yanda and Marshal’s presence, day-in and day-out, sets quite the tone,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. “I can’t speak highly enough how instrumental he’s been in the success we’ve had, really starting mid-season last year. Just how he’s been unbelievably dominant.”
Roman, who has led his offenses to the top of the NFL in nearly every place he’s been, might have his best unit, and individual lineman, with Yanda and the Ravens.
“Jonathan Ogden and Mike Flynn were my first old dogs when I was a young buck, and you want them to lead the way,” Yanda said. “And if you have questions, you ask those guys. And I remembered, if I ever make it to be the old guy in the room, I’m going to be a source for questions, for how I’m thinking about a play, or whatever — any type of resource they have.”
Whether old or young, experienced or inexperienced, the Ravens offensive line has been as consistent as one can expect an offensive line in the NFL to be.
The record book might not show it, but through the first 10 games of the season, the Ravens’ offensive line has been a model of stability, a unit that’s helped carry the Ravens to an 8-2 record.
It wouldn’t be fair to give them the credit alone for Jackson’s potential-MVP season, or the 8-2 record. But the rushing attack, which has been so dominant, starts with the five up front.
“It’s a tribute to all of them,” Roman said. “How they come in every day and work extremely hard and really take a lot of pride in the identity they’re trying to create every day.”
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