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Evaluating the Ravens’ options on the interior offensive line

Evaluating the Ravens’ options on the interior offensive line

In terms of acquisitions and departures, the Ravens’ offseason has, in just about every way, gone as well as could reasonably be expected — with one rather large caveat. 

Marshal Yanda announced his retirement from the NFL in March. The Ravens put an exclamation point on the career of one of the best players in franchise history, a career that will likely end in Canton, Ohio eventually. But at his retirement press conference, there was still an uneasy question of, "Who's up next?"

Since Yanda’s retirement, the Ravens have brought in two draft picks (Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson) as well as a free agent signee (D.J. Fluker) that could help fill his now vacant spot. They’ve also got 2019 fourth-round pick Ben Powers on the roster, too, who will compete for that position as well. 

The Ravens have three set starters on the line: Both tackle spots with Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr., as well as at left guard in Bradley Bozeman. At center and right guard, though, the waters are muddied. 

Matt Skura played well at center for a majority of last year before a devastating knee injury ended his season. He tore his ACL, MCL and LCL and dislocated his kneecap on Nov. 25 and his status for training camp is unknown. He figures to be the projected starter — if his health allows. 

If he’s unable to play, the logical next in line is Patrick Mekari, who replaced Skura last season. He played in 11 games, with five starts, at center as an undrafted rookie. With a year in the offense already, as well as NFL experience at center, he’s the most likely candidate to handle the snaps. 

Also in the mix is Bredeson, a rookie out of Michigan who started all four seasons for the Wolverines at left guard. He was cross-trained at Michigan as a center, however, and his toughness and strength on the interior of the line could be attractive to a team that has to replace potentially two starters from last year’s line. 

At right guard, Bredeson figures to be right in the mix as well. He’ll have a fellow rookie in Phillips and Fluker to compete with. 

Phillips started at left tackle at Mississippi State last season but said he’s more than comfortable moving inside to guard, since he’s got the feet of a tackle and the body of a guard. At 6-foot-5 and 344 pounds, he’s a behemoth of a lineman that could make for an incredibly physical 1-2 punch with Brown on the right side. 

Fluker is another monster offensive lineman at 6-foot-5 and 342 pounds. He only recently signed with the Ravens after he spent the last two seasons in Seattle, where he played at right guard. He began his career as a tackle, so he can certainly kick outside to tackle if the team needs him to. 

But perhaps the man with the inside track is Powers, who will be entering his second season with the Ravens in 2020. He played in just one game last year, but he's familiar with the offense and previously lined up next to Brown at Oklahoma, too. That built-in chemistry isn't something that can be taken lightly.

The Ravens also have tackle Andre Smith on the roster, as well as a few holdovers in R.J. Prince and Will Holden, meaning they'll enter camp with only one major injury question mark (Skura) and otherwise a young, talented and deep offensive line. 

If the starting lineup in the season opener is, from left to right: Stanley, Bozeman, Mekari, Fluker, Brown, then all but one player (Fluker) would be on his rookie contract. The average age of that offensive line would be 25.4 years old. Skura, who is 27, will enter his fifth season in the NFL and could be a factor if healthy.

Should Bredeson or Phillips take over at right guard instead, the Ravens would boast an offensive line with two returning Pro Bowlers and five starters on their rookie deals. 

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Lamar Jackson admits he cried after seeing himself on Madden 21 cover

Lamar Jackson admits he cried after seeing himself on Madden 21 cover

Like most of us, Lamar Jackson grew up playing Madden. He spent his childhood busting big runs with Michael Vick, carving up defenses with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady or dominating on the ground with LaDanian Tomlinson.

Most of us worshipped the players on the Madden cover. For an entire year they popped up on our TV screens as the game loaded, not to mention they were likely the most exciting player to use in that particular season. Jackson is one of the few who can say he's one of them, which is a reality he admitted brought him to tears. 

“They revealed to me the cover early,” Jackson told Steve Smith. “I don’t cry about stuff. I didn’t cry when I won the Heisman, I didn’t cry when I won all the other accolades. But when I seen the cover, I actually shed tears, like, ‘What the? It’s unreal.’”

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Most players in the past would probably think winning the Heisman is more worthy of tears than being on the Madden cover, but that generation of players didn't grow up with the game as Jackson did.

This isn't to say the Madden cover is a bigger accomplishment than the Heisman trophy, but you can no longer downplay the significance it holds to players dominating the league now. 

When you hear Jackson's response to gracing the cover, it's easy to understand why he was able to shake off an underwhelming Madden rating. Ratings change, but the Madden cover won't. 

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Report: Ravens add Kenjon Barner to crowded running back room

Report: Ravens add Kenjon Barner to crowded running back room

The Ravens running back room has suddenly become a tad more crowded.

Baltimore has reportedly signed seven-year veteran Kenjon Barner, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

The addition of Barner likely has little to do with Baltimore's plan on offense, as Mark Ingram and rookie J.K. Dobbins are expected to carry the bulk of the Ravens' rushing attack.

Barner, a former star at the University of Oregon, spent the past year with the Atlanta Falcons as the team's primary returner. For Baltimore, bringing in a guy like Barner makes sense, as one of the team's primary return men from a year ago, De'Anthony Thomas, decided to opt-out of the 2020 season.

The signing of Barner is a low-risk, high-reward one for Baltimore. Rookie James Proche is also expected to be in the mix in the return game.

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