Ahead of minicamps and training camp, I’m taking a very-early look at the most intriguing battles on the Ravens’ depth chart. Here’s the outlook on the offensive line:
Offensive linemen on the roster
Jarell Broxton, Blaine Clausell, Anthony Fabiano, James Hurst, Ryan Jensen, Alex Lewis, Eugene Monroe, Stephane Nembot, Matt Skura, Ronnie Stanley, John Urschel, Rick Wagner, De’Ondre Wesley, Marshal Yanda, Jeremy Zuttah
Coach John Harbaugh has talked about playing “the five best guys” together on the offensive line. That theory will be put to the test.
The Ravens’ biggest loss during free agency was left guard Kelechi Osemele, who signed with the Raiders. Whether the Ravens’ offensive line gets better or worse without Osemele is one of their biggest questions.
That issue was addressed in the draft, when the Ravens took Stanley with the sixth pick overall, and drafted Lewis in the fourth round. Stanley was the franchise’s highest pick since taking running back Jamal Lewis at No. 5 in 2000. It was also a pick that drew major attention, because the Ravens chose Stanley over talented left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who plummeted to No. 13 to the Dolphins after his infamous gas mask video surfaced on social media just prior to the draft.
The Ravens expect Stanley to start right away. However, Monroe is still on the roster at left tackle, despite missing 16 games with injuries the past two seasons. Speculation continues that Monroe will be released after June 1, when the Ravens would save $6.5 million in cap room by cutting him. But the Ravens are in no hurry to cut Monroe, who has already been paid $17.5 million from the Ravens in guaranteed money.
If Monroe is healthy and looks good when he returns from shoulder surgery, the Ravens will move Stanley to left guard as a rookie. Hall of Fame left tackle Jonathan Ogden played left guard during his rookie season with the Ravens. If a Monroe-Stanley duo is the Ravens’ best left side combo, they will go with it. Stanley can always slide to left tackle if Monroe is injured again, which is a better option than playing undrafted Hurst as the starting left tackle.
If Monroe is cut or traded, Stanley will start at left tackle, leaving Urschel and Jensen competing for the starting job at left guard. The Ravens’ three other offensive line starters look set – Zuttah at center, perennial Pro Bowler Yanda at right guard, and Wagner at right tackle.
However, Harbaugh and offensive line coach Juan Castillo will not let anyone rest on their laurels. The Ravens dropped from eighth in the NFL in rushing in 2014 to 26th in 2015. Anyone who is not getting the job done is subject to being replaced.
I expect the Ravens to keep nine offensive linemen, and I still think Monroe will be one of them, starting with Stanley, Zuttah, Yanda, and Wagner. I see Urschel, Jensen, Lewis, and Wesley as the backups.