Blog Entry

Gurode helps, but Ravens still have depth issues

Posted on: September 4, 2011 7:16 pm
Edited on: September 4, 2011 7:20 pm

Posted by Ryan Wilson

If the Ravens can stay healthy they have as good a chance as any team in the AFC to make a Super Bowl run. But this is football and not ping pong; injuries are as much a part of the game as touchdowns and interceptions. And with the regular season four days away, Baltimore still has plenty of unanswered questions, mostly having to do with the lack of depth at key positions.

On Sunday, the team addressed one of their needs by signing five-time Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode, who lost his job in Dallas when he refused to restructure his $5.5 million 2011 salary. Gurode isn't nearly the player he was during most of his nine-year Cowboys career, but he doesn't have to be in Baltimore.

The 2011 Ravens

The Ravens signed him as insurance in case their other veteran center, Matt Birk, isn't yet fully recovered from August 3 knee surgery. Though general manager Ozzie Newsome sounded absolutely ecstactic when talking about the news publicly. "We just got better as a team.," he said. "To have a successful season, you have to have quality depth across the board. We just added great depth to the interior of our OL with Andre."

It's amazing to think that the Ravens, a team that was committed to building a formidable offensive line through the draft, has been reduced to searching through the free-agent lost-and-found bin for warm bodies to protect Joe Flacco and open up holes for Ray Rice.  Late last month, Baltimore signed Bryant McKinnie to play left tackle. The Vikings had released McKinnie earlier in the offseason because he was out of shape.

Since 2005, the team has taken seven o-linemen in the first three rounds and the results have been mixed. A quick draft recap:

2005: T Adam Terry, 2nd round
2006: C/G Chris Chester, 2nd round
2007: G Ben Grubbs, 1st round; G/T Marshall Yanda, 3rd round
2008: T Oniel Cousins, 3rd round
2009: T Michael Oher, 1st round
2010: T Jah Reid, 3rd round

Reid, Oher, Yanda and Grubbs are still with the team, and the last three are starters. That said, McKinnie was signed after Cousins flopped as the Ravens' right tackle (and was subsequently cut), and Oher remained unimpressive at left tackle. The plan is for Oher to move to right tackle (where he's previously had some success) and install McKinnie at left tackle. The other players listed above either weren't re-signed once their contracts expired, or in the case of Terry, released.

Baltimore also has issues at wide receiver and quarterback. They traded for Lee Evans after rookie Torrey Smith proved he wasn't ready to be the No. 2. (And rightly so -- he's a rookie who didn't have the benefit of OTAs or minicamps; no idea why coach John Harbaugh thought it was even a possibility.) And he'll team with Anquan Boldin and, well, that's it. The Ravens have Ray Rice, who was second on the team in receptions last season behind Boldin, and much will be expected of second-year tight ends Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta.

A much bigger concern is the backup quarterback. As it stands, rookie sixth-rounder Tyrod Taylor won the job by default. We'll have to wait and see if Newsome brings in a just-released veteran (Trent Edwards, Josh McCown and Dan Orlovsky are all looking for work), or risks sticking with Taylor. Flacco hasn't missed a start in his three-year NFL career, but without him the Ravens go from double-digit wins to a staring 6-10 right in the face.

A year ago, Marc Bulger dutifully held down that role but he retired this offseason. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron recently called Bulger to gauge his interest in returning to the Ravens and he was kindly rebuffed, at least for the time being. The Carroll County Times' Aaron Wilson tweeted Saturday that "Bulger has decided to stay retired at this time, but told Ravens he would be interested in case of emergency if Flacco got hurt."

It's a nice sentiment, but it's not exactly an ideal set up. The last thing a team wants to do after losing its franchise quarterback for any amount a time, is bring in a guy off the street to start in less than a week. Even one who is intimately familiar with the offense. There's the matter of being in shape, not to mention developing timing and chemistry with the receivers.

For now, though, Bulger's staying put and the Ravens are headed into the 2011 season with a couple of o-line veterans let go by their previous teams and a backup quarterback who has been in the NFL for a grand total of six weeks.

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Since: Sep 1, 2009
Posted on: September 5, 2011 1:27 am

Gurode helps, but Ravens still have depth issues

Ravens have Boldin as their top receiver, which isn't a good thing at all. He's a fair number-two, but relying on Boldin and Lee Evans means defences will still key on Rice, who figures to catch a few balls.

I hated to see Dallas let Gurode go, but the lovely cap forced that decision.  He still has something left in the tank, but it's hardly realistic to expect him to step in and fill a spot straight away for a new team. Ravens had best not rely overmuch on McKinnie, either.

Joe Flacco will likely end up running for his life before this season's done, with that patchwork line in front of him.

Since: Aug 11, 2007
Posted on: September 4, 2011 11:30 pm

Gurode helps, but Ravens still have depth issues

there is no way this guy knows the playbook in a week or two.
especially if the C is calling the o signals.  

Since: Aug 19, 2006
Posted on: September 4, 2011 11:10 pm

Gurode helps, but Ravens still have depth issues

The Cowboys wanted to keep him badly but CAP issues made them cut him. Gurode is still a nice pick for the Ravens. But Ryan Wilson is right, you have to have some depth. Right now the Pats, Packers, and Steelers are kicking tail with their depth needs. I don't understand why the rest of these teams will not set their teams up with adaquate youngsters on their depth charts. I think trying to win it All by creating a Team of 1 Hit Wonders may be a big part of the problem with Roster Mismanagement. 

Since: May 12, 2010
Posted on: September 4, 2011 10:57 pm

Gurode helps, but Ravens still have depth issues

So I guess that means when you lose next week, your team will "really" be in trouble???  Lol

Since: Dec 3, 2007
Posted on: September 4, 2011 10:44 pm

Gurode helps, but Ravens still have depth issues

Ozzie Newsome:  "We just got better as a team."

What else is he supposed to say?  The Ravens are scraping together their 53-man roster with cast-offs and has-beens.  They are in trouble.

Since: May 12, 2010
Posted on: September 4, 2011 10:32 pm

Gurode helps, but Ravens still have depth issues

Ryan Wilson brings up some valid Points (some)...but he must be from Pittsburgh trying to influence me things aren't going to work out;)

Since: Sep 6, 2006
Posted on: September 4, 2011 10:18 pm

Gurode helps, but Ravens still have depth issues

It's curious how the Ravens can flip the O-line from being a question mark heading into the pre-season, to a position of strength heading into the regular season.  Grubbs, Birk, Yanda and Oher helped Rice rush for over 1,500 yards two years aga.  Now add McKinney and Gurode and the O-line has some depth.  And the Steeler O-line is still a source of weakness and will again lead the league in sacks allowed.

Since: Jul 13, 2011
Posted on: September 4, 2011 9:57 pm

Gurode helps, but Ravens still have depth issues

i dont think the ravens have a chance at making the playoofs. their offensive line issues will be on display for every opponent they play this year in week 1 when they will be destroyed by the steelers. i think the steelers run away with the division and see them going 5-1 or 6-0 in their division.

Since: Oct 18, 2007
Posted on: September 4, 2011 9:06 pm

Gurode helps, but Ravens still have depth issues

The Ravens are going to the Super Bowl for basically, according to youn signing a guy to be center insurance? How much does McKinnie even have left? This still looks like a playoff team, but could be a few injuries away from disaster.

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