The Baltimore Ravens season is over, but fans still have the offseason to look forward to. After a successful 2008 campaign, they are looking to improve in certain areas this offseason. So with the coming of the offseason, comes a position-by-position look at what the Ravens have to do. Today: offensive lineman.
Second-year left tackle, Jared Gaither was considered the heir-apparent to Jonathan Ogden when he retired. Gaither had a good season at the left tackle position, considering it was his first starting at that position and it looks like he will provide that consistency that Ogden provided for years to come.
At right tackle, the Ravens alternated fourth-year Ravens draft pick Adam Terry and veteran Willie Anderson. Anderson is in his first year with the team and provides much-needed leadership on a young line that needed it after the retirement of Ogden. Terry performed well and started towards the end of the season and playoffs, but there still may be some competition at that spot next year, whether Anderson returns or not.
Tackles Grade: A-
At left guard was former first-round pick, second year guard Ben Grubbs. Grubbs had a fantastic year at left guard, neutralizing the opposing defensive tackles many games and providing big holes for McClain or McGahee to run through. When the Ravens ran the ball through the middle, they traditionally went towards the left side and it's no surprise considering Grubbs' play at guard.
At the start of the season, Baltimore's starter at right guard was Marshal Yanda, but a few games into the season, Yanda injured his knee and was placed on injured reserve. In his place was Chris Chester who was converted by the team to tight end at the start of the season. They changed him to guard again and Chester did well at the right guard spot and will compete with Yanda for the starting position next season.
Guards Grade: B
The center for Baltimore was Jason Brown, who is looking for a big pay-day this offseason. Brown was a force in the middle for the Baltimore's offensive line and has emerged as one of the top young centers in the league this season. Ravens will need to offer him a large contract or franchise him if they want to keep him.
Center Grade: A
In the 2008 draft, Baltimore took linemen Oniel Cousins and David Hale in the third and fourth round, respectively. Neither started any games this season, but both played in some. Both have the ability to play tackle or guard, so they will both provide some competition for Yanda, Chester, and Terry next season.
Overall Line Grade: B+ (Some injuries and the line is relatively young, but they helped make Flacco's adjustment to the league easier and helped the team establish a strong running game).
How to improve: If they can't retain Jason Brown, they will need an answer at center. The center pool in this year's draft is pretty deep, so taking one in the third or fourth round would be one solution. Also, if Anderson doesn't return next season, they may need to sign a player for veteran leadership.
Next Edition: Defensive Line