Top five things Ravens need to do during bye week: Replace Tyre Phillips at RG
The Baltimore Ravens are heading into their bye week with a near-perfect record of 5-1 even though they have played far from flawless to achieve it on both sides of the ball but especially on offense as of late.
The stretch run to what they hope will end with an all-expense-paid trip for a chance to play for the franchise’s third championship on the first Sunday in February 2021 won’t be easy.
Here are is one of the top five things they need to do during their week off to give themselves their best chances of getting to Tampa represent the AFC in Superbowl 55:
Replace Tyre Phillips at RG
The Ravens returned all but one starter from last year’s prolific record-setting offensive unit. Unfortunately, that one starter that didn’t return to run it back in the regular season and go much deeper in the playoffs was future first-ballot Hall of Famer Marshal Yanda.
The battle to replace the eight-time Pro Bowler and franchise legend at right offensive guard was arguably the most publicized position battle for the two-time AFC North champions heading into training camp.
Veteran free-agent acquisition DJ Fluker was the early favorite, too the bulk of snaps at Yanda’s vacated spot during camp and was listed as the starter when the initial depth chart was released.
However, in a similar fashion to the battle for the left guard spot in last year’s training camp, a dark horse candidate wound up winning the job and opened the season as the starter.
Rookie Tyre Phillips was selected with the Ravens’ fourth pick of the third-round back in April out of Mississippi State. The career college tackle had never played guard before, but the team believed he’d be better suited in the interior rather than at tackle in the pros.
He was considered a long shot to beat out Fluker or second-year pro Ben Powers who was the early in-house favorite to replace Yanda immediately after he retired but the Ravens coaching staff saw enough to entrust him with filling in the Hall of Famer’s shoes in the starting lineup.
Through the first six games of the season, Phillips has missed one game with a shoulder injury, but his first five career starts have produced some mixed results.
Marshal’s absence has been clearly impactful and while no one was expecting him to come in a play at an All-Pro level as a rookie like Quenton Nelson of the Indianapolis Colts, some of the Ravens’ failure to run the ball as effectively or pass protect as efficiently to start the year can be attributed to some of his growing pains.
The Ravens have faced a daunting gauntlet of interior defensive linemen to start the year with the likes of J.J. Watt of the Texans, Chris Jones of the Chiefs, Geno Atkins of the Bengals, and most recently Fletcher Cox of the Eagles.
Coaches often say that experience is the best teacher and while he has marginally improved, the Ravens might not want to continue to sputter at times on offense for the sake of his development.
He’s struggled mightily at times against experienced veteran defensive tackles and the road doesn’t get any easier coming off the by with two matchups with Baltimore’s arch AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers in the month of November alone.
It might be in the best interest of the offense as a whole to turn to a more experienced option to take over the right guard duties for the remainder of the season or at least until the offense can get more in sync and can afford to bring him along without hurting the consistency and efficiency of the unit.
In the game that Phillips missed (Week Five v Bengals), the Ravens rotated Patrick Mekari who is the primary back up at and has started five games at center, and Powers who started the final game of his rookie season and has looked good in limited snaps this season.
If they want to elevate Fluker into the spot that he battled for during camp where he has 57 of his 89 career starts at, Phillips could take over his role as the swing tackle and serve as the primary backup to starters Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr at his natural position.