Mending a reconfigured offensive line will be a point of emphasis for the Ravens this summer after the team traded away a Pro Bowl right tackle and signed three free-agent veterans this offseason.
There is only one starting position from last year that will have the same Week 1 starter -- left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who is expected to be ready for the regular-season opener after recovering from a severe ankle injury he suffered eight months ago. Baltimore hopes to solidify a unit surrounding its All-Pro LT during training camp, and coach John Harbaugh expressed his confidence in Kevin Zeitler and Alejandro Villanueva once getting an on-field look at the two newest Ravens during this past week's minicamp.
"Watching them play has been a pleasure," Harbaugh said, via the team's website. "They're all ball, all the time -- both of those guys. Whether it's meeting room, weight room, conditioning [or] on the field work -- they're all ball, all the time. I love that about them. I think they're going to be a formidable tandem on the right side. I'm really pleased with them so far."
Zeitler, who signed a three-year, $22 million deal in March, will take over at right guard while Villanueva, a longtime left tackle for the Steelers, will be making the switch to right tackle after the Ravens traded Orlando Brown in April. The recent signing of Ja'Wuan James was Baltimore's third big addition in the trenches, though it's unclear if the tackle will be available this season as he recovers from a torn Achilles sustained in early May.
Expected to take over at center for the Ravens in 2021 will be fourth-year veteran Bradley Bozeman, who was the team's starting left guard last season. Bozeman will take over for Matt Skura, who's late-season benching last year eventually led to an unsurprising exit to Miami via free agency.
"I love the transition back to center," Bozeman said. "I played since high school, really, and I've always felt like that was my strong suit. I've always felt like that's where I kind of dominate -- in that tighter area. I'm a very intelligent person, I feel like -- especially when it comes to football."
Bozeman's move to center leaves one big question for the Ravens as they enter training camp, and Harbaugh has already declared the starting LG job as "wide open." The three candidates competing for that job this summer are third-year veteran Ben Powers, second-year guard Tyre Phillips and third-round rookie Ben Cleveland.
"Nobody has separated at this point, but you're not going to separate in something like this," Harbaugh said. "But we've got candidates, for sure, and they're all high-level candidates. So, I'm excited about that and can't wait to see it play out. If you like football and you're a real student of the game, you'll be watching that left guard battle during training camp."
The Ravens' offensive line play broke down by last season's end after all the injuries and the subsequent adjustments. They allowed nine sacks in the team's two playoff games, which further exposed a lopsided offense that led the league in rushing and finished last in passing. With Baltimore looking to improve quarterback Lamar Jackson's deep-ball passing this offseason, shoring up this new version of its O-line will be essential.