The Baltimore Ravens are coming off of their first victory of the season with their 14-6 victory over their AFC North rival Cleveland Browns, but there are plenty of areas to work on and it starts on the offensive line with Gino Gradkowski.
Gradkowski, the second year center, was essentially given the starting job once Matt Birk announced his retirement this offseason, and although Baltimore brought in A.Q. Shipley to compete with him, the job remained Gradkowki's. Unfortunately for the Ravens and Gino, he has struggled mightily over the first two games this season and needs to step his game up.
This past Sunday Gradkowski allowed three pressures on quarterback Joe Flacco with allowing one hit and two hurries. It was the second straight week for the young center allowing three pressures and has graded out as the worst offensive lineman for Baltimore in each of the first two games.
If you have been watching the games with a keen eye, you will have seen what we have, which is that pass blocking has actually been the strongest part of Gradkowski's game thus far. It is not hard to see that pass blocking has been better for Gradkowski because his run blocking has been borderline abysmal.
Baltimore has rushed for 58 and 99 total yards in their first two games, which puts them at 23rd in the NFL with a 78.5 rushing yards per game average. The issue has not really been the off tackle runs, it has been the inability for the middle of the offensive line to open holes for Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. The Ravens also have the fifth worst yards per rush attempt in the league just averaging 2.8 yards per carry.
The good news for Baltimore is that the Ravens began to run the ball a little better in the second half against the Browns, but with Rice's availability in question for Sunday, the offensive line, and Gradkowski especially, will need to open holes on a more consistent basis to not only help the running backs, but Flacco as well because a better running game could help open up the deep ball for this offense.
We are not saying that Shipley needs to start right now, but if Gradkowski's play does not improve, it may be time to give Shipley a shot to see what he can bring to this offense.
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