Wake-up caw: Future of offensive line

The weakest position on the Baltimore Ravens this season has been the offensive line. How the Ravens upgrade it will be a hot topic for the defending Super Bowl champions this offseason.

"As for the offensive line, the front office did all they could to improve the group during the season by trading for [left tackle Eugene] Monroe," The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston wrote. "Injuries and scheme changes just killed this group. I think Monroe will come back, but [right tackle Michael] Oher is gone. It will be interesting to see Kelechi Osemele and Marshal Yanda can overcome injuries."

I believe the two areas that need to change are right tackle and center. The Ravens likely won't re-sign Oher in free agency after another inconsistent season, and they probably have seen enough out of center Gino Gradkowski to know he isn't the long-term replacement for Matt Birk. The other question is whether Osemele, the left guard, can return to his 2012 form after back surgery.

The Ravens have to do something to open more holes in the running game and provide better protection for quarterback Joe Flacco.

Here's the rest of your wake-up call:

  • Don't expect the Cincinnati Bengals to take it easy on the Ravens in the regular-season finale after clinching the AFC North title last Sunday. The Bengals can still earn a first-round bye with a win over Baltimore and a loss by the New England Patriots. Plus, the Bengals want momentum heading into the playoffs, where they've gone 0-4 under coach Marvin Lewis. “We don’t need any pats on the back yet,” Lewis said, via Comcast SportsNet. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

  • Once the top-ranked red zone defense in the NFL, the Ravens allowed the Patriots to score on all three trips inside the 20-yard line. “I just don’t think we’ve played as well down there,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said, via Carroll County (Md.) Times. “We haven’t gotten the stops we’ve needed to get. Running the ball, [teams] have gotten a few too many yards running the ball at times on us, as you saw in this game [vs. New England]. You don’t expect someone to be able to run the ball in on us down there like that, especially the defense we were playing. It should never have happened. And they made some plays in the passing game.”

  • A struggling offense has been the Ravens' biggest obstacle this season, according to John Eisenberg of the team's official website. "Even when the Ravens seemingly rescued their season with four straight wins heading into Sunday’s debacle, the offense was not exactly hitting on all cylinders," Eisenberg wrote. "Only once in those four wins (against Minnesota on Dec. 8) did the unit score more than one touchdown. The numbers are even more alarming when put in a recent historical context. The Ravens are down 39 yards and almost five points per game from the 2012 regular season, in line for their lowest averages in those stats since John Harbaugh took over as head coach in 2008."