OWINGS MILLS, Md, — The Ravens have not been the most entertaining team when it comes to throwing the ball downfield.
However, Baltimore has the NFL's top rushing attack and is one of the top-scoring offenses in the league.
Former Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva signed with the Ravens as a free agent this offseason. He sees dramatic differences between the two franchises when it comes to moving the football.
"For us, as an offensive line, in Pittsburgh last year, it was incredibly challenging that we knew we had to go with these gameplans that involved passing the ball, potentially, the entire game and not really practice or rehearse that other part of football that relieves some of that angst," Villanueva said. "So, the mentality, when you have a balanced offense, or when you run the ball, it’s obviously better for the offensive line."
The Ravens ranked last in the NFL averaging 171.2 yards passing per game. Baltimore also attempted the least passes in the league with 406.
Some of Baltimore's wide receivers expressed some criticism on social media about the lack of target. Villanueva can understand the frustration.
"I’m assuming it’s not as fun for the wide receivers because they’re not getting all the catches," Villanueva said. "They’re making the TikToks, and they’re having fun on their social media. But for an offensive lineman, it’s definitely an awesome experience to be able to find angles to the hips of the defensive lineman, to be able to use your hands and be aggressive, take more risk on your blocks, be able to work, obviously, in tandem with players to your left and right, instead of being on an island blocking and just hoping that if the ball doesn’t get out of the hands quickly, that it’s [not] going to be a catastrophe."
However, offensive linemen take pride in running the ball.
"The mindset, when you know that you’re with a team that runs the ball well, it involves every single room in the offense, everybody is in unison," Villanueva said. "And it’s a lot of timing involved with running the ball. If you get the timing right, if you get the nice tracks on everybody, then usually you can get to run the ball, and for an offensive lineman, it’s very easy, because you don’t have a lot of angst when the team is running the ball well."
The Ravens are dedicated to having more balance with the offense next season.
The team signed free-agent wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who has battled injuries over his career. If Watkins can stay healthy, he can be a huge upgrade for Lamar Jackson.
The Ravens also selected Rashod Batement from Minnesota with the 27th overall pick in the draft. Bateman has the versatility to line up inside or outside and should start as a rookie. Baltimore also selected Tylan Wallace from Oklahoma State in the fourth round.
However, Villanueva stressed the challenges of an unbalanced offense with too many pass attempts.
"When you have to pass the ball, especially like we had to do last year, it involves an incredible amount of pressure, because you know the pass rushers can get in a rhythm," Villanueva said. "So, you’re going to start going against a player like – I don’t know, let’s think – Myles Garrett, and he’s going to get 10, 15 passes in a row to set up moves, to be able to attack every single angle of your body, try different moves. He has 50 to 60 snaps to try everything that he wants to do on you, so it becomes very stressful.
"But at the same time, whether you’re running the ball, whether you’re passing the ball, as an offensive lineman, you have to be selfless, you have to avoid complaining at all costs because that’s in your nature, and it can bring the morale down, and [you] try to make a challenge out of it."
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