With training camps getting underway later this month, now is a perfect time to take a look at the offensive line situations of the other three teams in the AFC North. First up is the Baltimore Ravens, who the Pittsburgh Steelers will not face until weeks 11 and 13 this season.
The Ravens suffered a huge loss this off-season when left guard Ben Grubbs left via free agency to sign with the New Orleans Saints. Also not returning in 2012 is backup center/guard Andre Gurode. The Ravens did resign veteran center Matt Birk though and drafted both Kelechi Osemele and Gino Gradkowski. They also added street free agent guard Bobbie Williams and center/guard Tony Wragge late in free agency.
We will now take a look at their projected starters and reserves.
LT Bryant McKinnie – McKinnie will turn 33 in September and looks to be the Ravens starting left tackle again in 2012. He is working on getting his weight down below 350 pounds by the time the Ravens report for training camp. The team paid him his $500,000 roster bonus this off-season so he isn\’t likely to be going anywhere. Last season McKinnie allowed 7 sacks, 9 quarterback hits and 24 hurries during the regular season and was rated by PFF as one of the worst run blocking tackles in the league.
RT Michael Oher – Oher, the Ravens 2009 first round pick, will be the Ravens right tackle again this year assuming he does not have to flip over to the left side should McKinnie wind up being released. In 2011 Oher allowed 7 regular season sacks to go along with 6 quarterback hits and 33 hurries.
RG Marshal Yanda – Yanda is easily the best lineman the Ravens have and is one of, if not the best, right guards currently in the league. He is solid in both pass protection and run blocking department and allowed just 2 sacks last year in the regular season.
C Matt Birk – Birk will turn 36 this month and missed the Ravens mini camp to have varicose veins fixed in his legs. He should be ready to go by the time training camp starts, but his knees remain huge question marks. If he can stay healthy, he is a force up the middle for the Ravens. Like Yanda, he allowed just 2 regular season sacks last year and started every game.
LG Bobbie Williams – Williams, the former Bengal, looks to be the odds on favorite to win the left guard job after being signed in the early part of June. Williams is no spring chicken though as he will turn 36 in September. He is also coming off a broken ankle suffered late last season, but seems to be fully recovered now. In the 9 games he started last year at right guard for the Bengals he allowed just 1 sack, 3 hits and 5 hurries according to PFF. There will be a little bit of an adjustment for him in switching sides, but he has plenty of time to work out the kinks in training camp.
T Jah Reid- Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said back in March that Reid would have a chance to win the left guard spot after Grubbs left via free agency. The signing of Williams since that time and the Ravens lack of depth at the tackle spot now means that Reid will likely be the first tackle off the bench. Should McKinnie go down, Oher would most likely flip over to the left side and Reid would play right tackle. The 2011 third round pick saw limited action during his rookie season and most of those snaps came with him being used as blocking end.
G Justin Boren – Boren spent the 2011 season on the Ravens practice squad after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State. Boren figures to battle in training camp to be the Ravens swing guard. He can also play center should the need arise.
C Tony Wragge – The Ravens signed Wragge in the middle of June and he figures to be the backup to Birk at center. He started 8 games at center for the St. Louis Rams last season and can play both guard spots should the need arise. Like quite a few on the Ravens offensive line, Wragge is on the wrong side of 30 and he will turn 33 in August.
G Kelechi Osemele – Osemele was drafted back in April in the second round by the Ravens out of Iowa State. He is projected to be the Ravens future left guard, but needs a year in the weight room before he is ready. The rookie missed a good portion of the off-season sessions because of a quad injury, but word is that he could be ready by the start of camp. He does not figure to challenge Williams for the starting spot this year.
C/G Gino Gradkowski – The Ravens drafted Gradkowski in the fourth round this past April out of Delaware and he figures to be a project initially. Baring injury, the rookie could will likely start the season on the Ravens practice squad if he can\’t beat out Wragge for a roster spot.
Summation: As you can see the Ravens have a lot of combined experience in their projected starting five, but with that experience comes age and injury risk. I was pretty shocked that Birk made it through all of last season myself. Yanda is solid at right guard, but the shoes that Grubbs left at left guard will be mighty hard for Williams to fill. Oher is serviceable at right tackle, but the Ravens are in trouble should he or McKinnie go down for any extended time as Reid is very inexperienced. The Ravens interior depth features only Wragge with game experience as well. By the end of September the Ravens starting five will have an average age of 31.8 and their depth is very suspect.