Position Roll Caw is a weekly series that takes an in-depth look at each Position Rooms in the 2018 Baltimore Ravens leading up to Training Camp. We look at the players, the history, and the expectations for each group.
Ronnie Stanley, T, 3rd Year Veteran, University of Notre Dame – The 6th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Stanley has developed into the 2nd most consistent Ravens OL (behind Yanda). Stanley has shown the ability to stymie the best pass rushers in the AFC North by himself, allowing the team to shift extra resources to help the right side of the line. Stanley will look to continue his development as he inches closer to his prime years, looking to earn his next NFL contract.
James Hurst, G/T, 5th Year Veteran, University of North Carolina – Hurst has been quite a polarizing figure among Ravens fans, and one whose outlook has been hard to gauge. A Tackle in college, Hurst struggled in each of his stints as a fill in Tackle when called upon by the Ravens. In 2017, with injuries to Yanda and Alex Lewis, Hurst stepped into a starting role at LG, and performed relatively well, earning him a 4 year deal in free agency. Despite last year’s success, the Ravens have commented that they may still give Hurst a chance at RT again, depending on how the other OL pieces come together.
Marshal Yanda, G, 12th Year Veteran, University of Iowa – The rock of the Ravens offensive line, Yanda had a difficult year in 2017, being lost to injury just 1.5 games into the season. The Ravens were forced to fill his spot with several rookie and journeyman players who obviously couldn’t fill Yanda’s big shoes. Yanda is a 6 time Pro Bowler, a 5 time All-Pro (1st or 2nd Team), and will likely be in the conversation at the end of his career for a spot in Canton. A few more dominant seasons at RG would solidify the last item, though. *Note – Yanda will begin Training Camp on the PUP list, but should be ready by Week 1.
Alex Lewis, G/T, 3rd Year Veteran, University of Nerbaska – Possibly more than Hurst, Lewis could be the most difficult Ravens OL to pin down where he fits. Lewis was drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 NFL Draft as a troubled OT from Nebraska. During his rookie season, he seemed to find a niche at LG during his rookie season, but injuries cut his rookie year short after just 10 games. In 2017, he was looked at as either the starting LG or RT, but a preseason injury knocked him out of the season before Week 1. With the Ravens drafting a potential rookie starter at RT in Orlando Brown, Jr, and re-signing last year’s LG James Hurst, Lewis finds himself looking for his spot to get his career back on track. He was even lined up at C during minicamps, so he may get looks lierally everywhere.
Orlando Brown, Jr, T, Rookie, University of Oklahoma – After cutting Austin Howard as a cost saving move in the offseason, the Ravens once again found themselves looking for a RT for the present and future. They opted to spend a 3rd round draft pick on Brown, the son of former Ravens OT Orlando “Zeus” Brown. Brown, Jr, was hyped as a potential 1st round pick, but hurt his stock majorly with a rough Combine performance. The Ravens saw enough from his tape to take him anyway, and his performance in minicamps seem to indicate the Combine performance might be more of the exception than the rule.
Matt Skura, G/C, 2nd Year Veteran, Duke University – Skura initially joined the Ravens as an undrafted rookie in 2016, but was unable to win a job with the team and spent the entire year on the practice squad. In 2017, he was given a chance to win the starting job at Center against Ryan Jensen. Jensen won the starting job, but Skura impressed enough to get the call as a Guard when Yanda’s injury replacement struggled. Skura’s performance at Guard was solid, and he now finds himself as a likely swing backup between Guard and Center, while competing again for the starting Center job as well.
Nico Siragusa, G, 2nd Year Veteran, San Diego State University – Siragusa was drafted in the 4th round in 2017 and was expected to be a contender for the starting Center job along with Ryan Jensen, but he suffered an unfortunate knee injury early in training camp and was lost for the season. Siragusa is listed solely as a Guard now, so it is likely that he is competing for a backup G spot behind Yanda and Hurst/Lewis.
Jermaine Eluemunor, G/T, 2nd Year Veteran, Texas A&M University – Eluemunor was a great story in the 2017 NFL Draft, as a British born player who turned to football late in his youth and impressed enough at Texas A&M to get drafted. The story got even more interesting when Eluemunor was allowed to dress for his first career game when the Ravens traveled to London. Eluemunor went on to play in 8 games, starting 2 at RG. He will look at follow up that season by competing for a backup spot at either Guard or Tackle.
Bradley Bozeman, C, Rookie, University of Alabama – After losing breakout Center Ryan Jensen in free agency, the Ravens decided to spend a 7th round draft pick on big school Center prospect Bozeman. Bozeman is a bit lacking in the athleticism department, but has the typical size you want from a Center, and his big school pedigree gives the potential hope that he will be used to higher competition along the NFL levels.
Greg Senat, T, Rookie, Wagner University – Just ahead of picking Bozeman, the Ravens decided to take a small school developmental tackle in Senat. Senat was a 4 year starter in basketball at Wagner, in addition to playing football. He has an uphill climb to make the roster this year, given his developmental status, but he will look to make the most of his time with NFL linemen and coaches to start learning the position.
Andrew Donnal, G/T, 4th Year Veteran, University of Iowa – Donnal is a former 4th round pick of the Rams in 2015. He played in 21 games with the Rams, with 6 starts, before being waived in 2017. Donnal was able to play in about 60 snaps with the Ravens in 2017, mostly on Special Teams. He will look to make an impact as a backup tackle with the team’s lack of depth at the tackle position.
Maurquice Shakir, G, 2nd Year Veteran, Middle Tennessee State University – Shakir was an undrafted free agent with the Ravens in 2017, beginning the year on the Practice Squad, but earning a 53 man roster spot for November and December. Despite the elevation, Shakir never dressed for a game. A college tackle, Shakir transitioned to Guard and will look to compete once again to backfill for Yanda and whoever wins the LG spot.
Justin Evans, G, Rookie, South Carolina State University – Evans joins the Ravens as an undrafted rookie, originally a college Tackle, but looking to earn his spot as a Guard. Another small school prospect, Evans was a two time All-MEAC selection and didn’t give up a single sack in his final season.
Alex Thompson, C, Rookie, Monmouth University – Three time All-Big South and a Third Team All-American, Thompson joins the wide open Center battle in 2018. Thompson won a statewide wrestling title in his final year of high school, which is a good start at a position where we need a strong, physical fighter type of player.
Randin Crecelius, G, Rookie, Portland State University – Crecelius played Left Tackle for two seasons with Portland State, but being a bit on the smaller side for an NFL tackle, he will transition to Guard. He played several spots earlier in his college career on the OL, so he could potentially look to fill as a utility OL with some more development.
(Likely keep 8-10 OLs)
LOCK – Stanley, Yanda, Hurst, Brown, Lewis, Skura
BUBBLE – Siragusa, Eluemunor, Donnal, Bozeman, Shakir
CAMP BODY – Senat, Thompson, Evans, Crecelius
2017 Review, IN JUST ONE PARAGRAPH:
The Ravens Offensive Line was a mixed bag early in the season, beginning with some gaping holes in the offseason at Center and Right Guard, which only worsened with early season ending injuries to penciled in Left Guard Alex Lewis and Pro Bowl Right Guard Marshal Yanda. This forced the Ravens to push several depth players to the top, which began somewhat painfully, but seemed to gel by end of the year. Ryan Jensen quickly became a tough, dependable anchor at the Center spot, James Hurst found success at the Left Guard spot, and Matt Skura, who lost the Center battle to Jensen, developed into a decent Right Guard. The Ravens filled the RT spot by signing cap casuality Austin Howard, who played decently throughout the year. By season’s end, the Offensive Line was (arguably) playing above average, as referenced by the high rushing YPC achieved by Alex Collins. What looked like a painful situation early on actually helped the Ravens to get some depth players ready for roles for the future.
2018 SEASON EXPECTATIONS:
Once again, the Offensive Line group found themselves in a questionable status in the offseason. Ryan Jensen converted his breakout 2017 season into the biggest Center contract in the NFL (highest average per season). Austin Howard found himself a cap casualty again, with his contract option declined a day after the Ravens re-signed James Hurst. So, once again, the Ravens were looking for a Center and a Right Tackle. James Hurst was retained, which was deserved after the season he had, but it is still a bit unclear where the Ravens expect him to play. While he seemed to play best at Guard, the Ravens view recovering OL Alex Lewis as the best Left Guard on the team, which would push Hurst back to Right Tackle, where he has not played strongly during his 4 year career. Further complicating the picture is the Ravens selection of Tackle Orlando Brown Jr. in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL Draft. While Hurst would likely get the nod at Right Tackle if Brown isn’t showing he is ready to play, it is clear from minicamps and OTAs that the Ravens are going to give Brown, Jr. every opportunity to win the RT spot. Lewis and Yanda have to show they are fully healthy again as well. The one spot I do not mention is Left Tackle, as Ronnie Stanley has become a dependable option there that we have no worries about.
At Center, the Ravens have many options, with none of them really experienced. Skura is the likely front runner, given his presence in the 2017 Center battle and his strong showing in the 2nd half of 2017 season at Guard. The Ravens may also look at Interior OL Nico Siragusa, who has the body and strengths to play Center, but never played it in college. However, he is still recovering from his knee injury. The Ravens also have two rookie options in Bozeman and Thompson, and Bozeman could present a very intriguing option if he can show strong development in training camp, though both are still long shots to make the roster. Bozeman does have the benefit of years of practice in college against the Crimson Tide defense though, which is about as NFL ready as you can get in college. The wildcard at Center would be Alex Lewis. Lewis has never played Center, but if Brown, Jr. wins the RT job and the Ravens want to turn back to Hurst at LG, Lewis would certainly be the most talented option at Center. The Ravens already experimented with this move in minicamp, deploying an OL during a few practices of Stanley-Hurst-Lewis-Skura-Brown. Now, that could be due to Yanda being out and wishing to use Skura at RG, but giving Lewis reps at C over RG is pretty telling.
Overall, as said before, 2018 will be a year of searching for the Ravens Offensive Line in a similar way that 2017 was. Once again, the Ravens are looking to find future options at RT and Center. The difference (for now) is that it seems that we have those options on the roster now. Brown, Jr. may still be developing, but he certainly seems poised to win the RT job sooner rather than later, likely by end of 2018. Between Skura, Lewis, Siragusa, and Bozeman, one of them should likely play well enough at Center to hold the spot, though the replacement for fiery redhead Ryan Jensen will have huge shoes (and a bigger mean streak) to fill. One advantage that this group have over their 2017 version is experience. Guys like Skura, Eluemunor and Hurst earned some HUGE playing time last year and really got some rookie/young player problems out of the way. Skura and Hurst are dependable players that should dress every game, if not start, and Eluemunor made enough progress in his rookie year to be expected to be a member of the OL rotation. Combined with returns from Siragusa, Lewis, and Yanda, this group has the potential to be an above average unit for the Ravens, provided that damn injury bug can stay away this time!