No apparent relief in sight for Ravens offensive line

November 14, 2016 | Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are alone in first place in the AFC North this late in a season for the first time since 2012, but the state of their offensive line is once again moving in the wrong direction.

And it doesn’t appear that any relief is in sight.

Head coach John Harbaugh announced Monday that starting left guard Alex Lewis will miss an estimated six weeks with the high ankle sprain sustained in the 28-7 win over Cleveland. The Ravens remain hopeful that the rookie fourth-round pick can still return this season after an estimated six-week recovery. Television replays showed his right ankle bending in a gruesome way, an injury that led to medical staff putting his leg in an air cast before he was carted off the field.

The Lewis news was bad enough, but Harbaugh’s comments regarding the status of right guard Marshal Yanda prompted even more concern on Monday. The five-time Pro Bowl selection missed two games in October with a left shoulder injury and had returned after the bye week to play against Pittsburgh, but he was once again sidelined for Week 10, leaving obvious concern for his status moving forward.

“We’ll let you know as we go,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll see how he progresses.”

Widely regarded as the best guard in the NFL and the leader of the Baltimore offensive line, Yanda hadn’t missed a game since the end of the 2012 regular season before hurting his shoulder against Washington on Oct. 9. He was attempting to play through the injury by wearing a harness, but the shoulder clearly didn’t respond well from playing 70 snaps against the Steelers.

Veteran Vladimir Ducasse started in place of Yanda against Cleveland and third-year lineman John Urschel took over for Lewis at left guard in the second half, but the Ravens had hoped their offensive line was finally getting healthy after the bye week. Their original starting five played together against Pittsburgh for the first time since Week 3, but the Ravens were forced to use their sixth different starting combination along the offensive line in Week 10.

Their seventh different combination is now expected to start against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

With their line in disarray for much of the year, the Ravens have struggled to run the ball and consistently protect quarterback Joe Flacco, who is having one of the worst seasons of his nine-year career. Baltimore currently ranks 28th in the NFL in averaging just 3.5 yards per carry while the passing game ranks 31st at just 6.3 yards per attempt this season.

Fortunately for Baltimore, rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley bounced back from a rough performance in his return against the Steelers to fare much better against the Browns last Thursday. The sixth overall pick of the 2016 draft missed four games with a foot injury that sidelined him for the entire month of October.

Center Jeremy Zuttah is the only Ravens offensive lineman to start all nine games this season, but the veteran played through back and ankle issues in the Week 10 win.

In other injury-related news, Harbaugh said outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil is getting closer to returning to practice after he was shut down last month in his return from offseason foot surgery. The five-time Pro Bowl selection has appeared in just two games this season and last played on Oct. 9.

“He is getting closer. I am hoping it is very close,” Harbaugh said. “We will just have to see. When he starts practicing, you will know. It should be right there.”