An excellent performance by this unit was a huge key to a Lombardi trophy this past season. With only the Center position up for grabs could this group build on that success in 2013?
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Let’s take a look:
2013 Depth Chart:
C- Gino Gradkowski, A.Q. Shipley, Ryan Jensen, Reggie Stephens
G-Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Ramon Harewood, Ricky Wagner, Antoine McClain
T-Bryant McKinnie, Michael Oher, Jah Reid, David Mims, Jack Cornell, Jordan Devey, Joe Unga, Rogers Gaines
It’s no surprise that much of Joe Flacco’s historic playoff run was attributed to the offensive line’s ability to keep the quarterback upright and looking downfield. With much of the same group intact from last season the Ravens should feel good about what they have in camp.
Matt Birk retired completing a very solid 14-year pro career with a Super Bowl ring. His leadership and intelligence at the position will be missed but the Ravens planned for his departure by drafting Gino Gradkowski last season. Gradkowski should be the favorite as he’s had a season under Birk’s tutledge and has gelled well with fellow Delware alum Joe Flacco. Coach Harbaugh loves competition so the team acquired former Colt A.Q. Shipley to push for the starting spot. Shipley has some experience and graded out well when he got the chance to hit the field. Ryan Jensen was a small school prospect scooped up in the sixth round this past April and is hoping to convert to the position. Reggie Stephens is the largest Center in camp at 320 lbs. and has bounced around a few practice squads in the past several seasons.
Arguably the most important position on the line aside from Center is Left Tackle. Bryant McKinnie’s weight and work ethic will determine just how well this line can play for this upcoming season. After roller coaster seasons in Baltimore ended with the huge lineman locking down some of the league’s top rushers he was brought back for an additional two years. He started off working hard in mini-camps and appeared to be in good shape. Just five weeks later he was not allowed to step on the field because the staff felt he was too heavy. Unfortunately it’s to be expected when McKinnie’s name is involved but it does seem as if Coach Harbaugh and McKinnie are publicly on the same page to work together on his weight issues so he’ll be ready to contribute. Michael Oher is finally where he belongs at Right Tackle. The constant flip-flopping had to be a distraction and now that he knows where he’ll play he may be able to take the next step as a player. Jah Reid was beset with injuries as a bad toe put him on the sidelines during the playoffs. He spent some time starting at Guard and his versatility should make him the first off the bench for the lineman. Massive 6’8″ 320 lbs. prospect David Mims was on the Chiefs roster last season and could be an interesting player to follow over the course of camp. Jack Cornell was picked up as an undrafted player and spent time on the practice squad. Other rookies include Jordan Devey out of Memphis who received the second highest signing bonus for undrafted rookies, Tennessee State’s Rogers Gaines was a first-team All-Ohio Valley selection, and Joe Unga was a part of an offensive line that gave up only 4 sacks in 11 games for Midwestern State.
Marshal Yanda continues to excel as the Ravens top offensive lineman. A two-time consecutive Pro Bowler he did not allow a single sack last season. Yanda is still recovering from off-season shoulder surgery an injury that he played through last season. He’s expected to be active at some point during camp. Kelechi Osemele started his rookie season at Tackle but truly excelled once he started at Guard. For now he also appears to be McKinnie’s back-up in case things do go to plan. Fourth-year player Ramon Harewood was the surprise opening day starter at Left Guard but lost his job after only five games. He has great size but still needs polish. Rick Wagner is another in a long line of lineman out of Wisconsin. That means you can expect smarts, toughness, and a potential contributor down the road.
Predictions: As Bryant McKinnie goes, so goes this edition of the offensive line. The Ravens knew what they were getting when they re-signed him, a player that could be very good at a cap friendly price but would also need constant monitoring. His play helps solidify the rest of the line and keeps players in the positions where they are best suited. Osemele has All-Pro potential at Guard and he should stay there to refine his talents. Oher is not the “Blind Side” star that most had hoped but he’s very good as a Right Tackle. A productive McKinnie allows the Ravens to put their best five on the line something they weren’t able to do last season until playoff time.
After McKinnie, Yanda is the anchor of the group. He’s one of the league’s best and when he isn’t on the field the whole unit suffers. Birk’s departure leaves the door open at Center which is Gradkowski’s to lose. Continuity is a key to great line play and Baltimore has plenty of familiar faces to build upon past success.
As far as depth the team has plenty of options but not many that I really like. Jah Reid and Ramon Harewood need to play tougher and smarter but both will get chances. My choice for someone to watch at camp is Wagner who has versatility as a Guard/Tackle and comes with a solid pedigree. He could be an eventual starter one day.