Change for better: Ravens believe offensive line is better than a year ago

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Baltimore Ravens' offensive line is undergoing a lot of changes this offseason.

In coach John Harbaugh's opinion, the changes are for the better. Harbaugh praised an offensive line that lost two starters after what was a surprisingly solid season.

"You compare it to last year, I think we are in better shape than we were a year ago at this time," Harbaugh said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings. "We actually have more flexibility, more depth than we did a year ago and it turned out pretty well for us."

Matt Skura, the Ravens' starting right guard last year, will have first shot at replacing Ryan Jensen, who joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency and became the highest-paid center in the NFL. A six-time Pro Bowl player, Marshal Yanda will start at right guard after being sidelined the past 14 games with a fractured ankle.

Alex Lewis, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, is set to take back the starting left guard job. James Hurst, last year's starting left guard, will fill the void at right tackle after Austin Howard's option wasn't picked up.

That leaves left tackle Ronnie Stanley as the only Baltimore offensive lineman to return to the same position that he started at the end of last season.

But Lewis could play center and Hurst and Skura could end up at guard again.

"We’ve got some prospects there," Harbaugh said. "I love the way the offensive line is set up right now."

Lewis can play any position along the offensive line. Harbaugh believes his best fit is at guard.

"We run a lot of different schemes -- gap schemes and pull schemes and lead schemes, where the guards have to get out and do a lot of athletic things," Harbaugh said. "Alex Lewis can run. He’s fast for an offensive lineman."

Baltimore believes Hurst can start at right tackle because of how he played there at the start of training camp. But Lewis' season-ending injury forced the Ravens to move Hurst from tackle to guard.

"Actually, Terrell Suggs said, ‘Hey man, this is the next Rick Wagner,'" Harbaugh said of Hurst. "That’s how he felt going against him in training camp. I remember him saying that."

Last year, the Ravens offensive line ranked No. 18 in the NFL despite injuries forcing 26 different combinations, according to Pro Football Focus. With this line, Baltimore allowed 27 sacks (tied for seventh-fewest) and ran for 116 yards per game (11th-most).

The Ravens will now have a different left guard, center, right guard and right tackle than what they finished with last year. But, as Harbaugh noted, nothing is definite right now. Next month's draft could lead to more switches.