Ravens HC John Harbaugh provides outlook on right guard competition
The competition to fill the starting right guard spot on the Baltimore Ravens offensive line that was vacated by future Hall of Famer Marshal Yanda earlier in the offseason will be one of the fiercest and most closely monitored position battles in training camp.
The candidates in the running to fill his shoes, at least in the starting lineup, according to Harbaugh will include 2019 fourth-round pick Ben Powers, 2019 undrafted free agent Patrick Mekari who started five games at center as a rookie and will be competing to start there as well, rookies Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson who were drafted in back to back rounds and veteran DJ Fluker who the Ravens picked up a week after the draft and who has the most experience of the bunch having started 88 games in his six-year career.
Harbaugh and the Ravens aren’t expecting any of them to come in and perform at the same elite level as Yanda because that would be too daunting of a task considering he is one of a kind. Typically, offensive line competitions are mostly decided once the pads come on but the coaching staff would like for someone set themselves apart in the class/meeting room.
“You look at that part of it, the mental part, especially with the young guys and the new guys,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “Even a guy like D.J. as experienced as he is coming in, it’s a new offense for him. He’s been with (Offensive Line) Coach (Joe) D’Allesandris before so he should have an idea of the techniques, which is a plus. You look for everything you can find and I think the mental aspect of it’s very important.
Last season the race for the starting left guard spot went down to the wire and a dark horse candidate emerged as the winner. That player was former collegiate academic All-American Bradley Bozeman who went on to start all 16 games. He did what he needed to do to separate himself behind the scenes and in live games against other teams.
This year’s group that will be competing to start at right guard won’t have the benefit of putting together game film against other teams but they will have other opportunities to prove themselves when they get on the field.
“But really the decisions will get made once we put the pads on and we start competing along those lines and you can see how well it transfers to just executing and play-by-play situations. Having the games would help us make that evaluation. But we can make the evaluation based on what we have and that’s what we’ll have to do. I’m looking forward to seeing those guys in action.”
The Ravens value versatility among their players and have several offensive linemen that play or have the potential to play multiple positions. In addition to competing to retain his starting job at left guard Bozeman will also be in the mix to start at center, a position he played in college at Alabama. Mekari played guard and tackle in college at Cal-Berkley and will be in the mix to start at center as well as at guard. Phillips played tackle in college but projects better to guard at the pro level and Bredeson has the flexibility to play either three of the interior spots.
Several of their interior linemen will be competing at different spots along the line in order to find the best starting five combination to unveil when Week One rolls around and the Cleveland Browns come to town on September 13th.
“We’ve got to do a really good job of sorting that out,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to play those guys all around. Our guards are going to be playing tackle some. You’ll see Tyre Phillips playing some tackle even though he’ll still be competing for the starting right guard and backup left guard spot. We’re going to have to really be flexible. To be good, we’re going to have to do a great job of how we organize our practices – make sure it’s fair by everybody.”