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Ravens training camp preview: Marshal Yanda leaves giant hole on interior offensive line

Ravens training camp preview: Marshal Yanda leaves giant hole on interior offensive line

Rostered offensive linemen: Ronnie Stanley, Bradley Bozeman, Matt Skura, Ben Powers, Orlando Brown Jr., Patrick Mekari, Andre Smith, Will Holden, R.J. Prince, D.J. Fluker, Ben Bredeson, Tyre Phillips, Daishawn Dixon, Evan Adams, Sean Pollard, Trystan Colon-Castillo

The Ravens’ offensive line has, of any spot on the roster, the biggest singular hole to fill. 

After the team lost one of the best players in team history, Marshal Yanda, to retirement in the offseason, they were left to replace the franchise’s right guard for a decade. 

While the play of the Ravens’ right guard in 2020 almost certainly won’t equal the level Yanda played at a year ago, it won’t be for a lack of options on the interior. 

The Ravens drafted Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson in the mid-rounds and then signed D.J. Fluker as a free agent nearly immediately after his release from the Seahawks. They’ve got Ben Powers, a 2019 fourth-round pick, entering his second season. Patrick Mekari, who played out the stretch at center, could be an option to start at right guard as well. 

In essence, they've got an entire starting offensive line of options to replace Yanda.

If Ronnie Stanley and Bradley Bozeman start together on the left side of the offensive line once again, with Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle, six players are vying for two spots on the offensive line at center and right guard. 

Matt Skura, who had a significant knee injury on Nov. 25 last season against the Rams, appears to be healthy, according to coach John Harbaugh. If that’s the case and he’s able to start training camp, he’ll have the inside track to keeping his job as the team’s starting center.

RELATED: RAVENS HEALTHY FOR TRAINING CAMP

That’d mean the competition would boil down to: Fluker, Bredeson, Phillips, Mekari and Powers for the right guard position. Fluker, the only one on the list to play more than a handful games in the NFL, likely has the edge right now — but it’s certainly a position that will be decided in camp. 

Fluker, at 6-foot-5 and 342 pounds, would make for a massive right side of the offensive line in Baltimore. Fluker began his career as a tackle in San Diego, but transitioned to guard in 2015. He played for the New York Giants and later Seattle before his move to the Ravens. 

The team’s rookie options, Phillips and Bredeson, were back-to-back picks in this year’s NFL Draft. Phillips was the 106th selection, out of Mississippi State, and Bredeson was the 143rd selection, out of Michigan. 

Though Phillips mostly played tackle in college, he credited a tackle’s footwork and a guard’s body as a reason why his transition inside could be to his benefit. Bredeson played left guard in college, but could fill in at either guard, or even center, if the Ravens wish for him to do so.

Both are big bodies that fit what the Ravens would like to do in the running game, as Bredeson is 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds while Phillips is 6-foot-5 and 345 pounds. Paired with Brown, a 6-foot-8, 345-pound tackle, there won’t be many defensive fronts that can match the Ravens' size.

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Perhaps no one has a leg up like Powers does, though, as not only does he have a year under his belt of guard reps for the Ravens, he played next to Brown while the two were at Oklahoma. There, they helped engineer one of the best offensive lines in the country. So in an offseason as limited as this one, chemistry could prove vital to deciding who takes the team’s first snaps at right guard this season. If that’s the case, Powers has an excellent shot to take the reigns. 

That leaves Mekari, who started the team’s final six games (including the playoff loss) in place of Skura at center. Mekari played well in a replacement role, though it remains to be seen if he’d compete for the team’s right guard position. He could fill in as a backup center to Skura, or if Skura isn’t 100 percent healthy, remain the starter. 

But if the Ravens have questions about two of their interior spots, they certainly don’t have them about the other three positions. 

Stanley and Brown combined to make perhaps the best tackle duo in the league last season, as both made Pro Bowls. Stanley was named a first-team All-Pro as well. And in just a few seasons, Stanley could be on his way to becoming the highest-paid tackle in the sport. 

Bozeman paired with Stanley to fill out the left side of the offensive line last season, and in his first season as a starter, impressed enough to make Harbaugh confirm he will be a starter — at what position is still to be decided — in the 2020 season. 

While the Ravens have questions to answer about the starting unit, and the immediate depth, there aren’t many questions to answer about the general framework of the offensive line. The team carried eight for a majority of the season last year, but with the NFL’s new rule of an expanded active roster to 48 players (assuming three are offensive linemen) they could end up carrying nine.

If that’s the case, and the starting lineup turns out to be Stanley, Bozeman, Skura, Fluker and Brown, the backups are relatively easy to pencil in with Phillips, Bredeson, Mekari and Powers. 

That would leave swing tackle Andre Smith as well as roster hopefuls Will Holden and R.J. Prince left on the outside looking in.

For as much as the offensive line looks like moving parts that need to come together, there’s an easy path to determining who makes the 53-man roster. 

From there, it gets a bit more difficult.

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Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti makes $1 million donation to local social justice reform programs

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti makes $1 million donation to local social justice reform programs

The Baltimore Ravens, along with the Steve and Renee Bisciotti Foundation, announced on Monday a $1 million joint-donation will be going to 28 local charities promoting racial equality. 

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti pledged to make this donation a week after George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minnesota. 

The Ravens formed a committee with five players -- Justin Tucker, Morgan Cox, Marlon Humphrey, Matthew Judon and Ronnie Stanley -- and former wide receiver Torrey Smith in order to decide which Baltimore-area organizations would receive funding. 

“When you talk about social justice, there are many different issues -- from education, to criminal justice reform, to health," Smith said through a Ravens release. "There are so many avenues the players could have chosen, so they really spread it out among a lot of different grassroots organizations. This is just the beginning of trying to figure out as many ways to collaborate with the people in the city who are doing great things to help change Baltimore for the better."

For Stanley, his status as a professional athlete in America's biggest sporting league makes him 

“I’m passionate about this, knowing the position I’m in and how blessed I am to be in a position to help people. I’m not going to forget about the people who are dealing with things that aren’t fair. We have an opportunity to help make the world a better place, and I want to take advantage of that," Stanley said in the Ravens statement.

“There are so many places in society that racism has affected. It really starts with people’s mentalities and how they’ve been raised and taught," continued Stanley. "The biggest thing for me is educating people about their own misconceptions and stereotypes, helping them understand the root behind these stereotypes and why the black community is where it is today. It has everything to do with American history.”

For a full list of the 28 organizations receiving money, click here

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Lamar Jackson is only focused on one thing after his MVP season: Winning a Super Bowl

Lamar Jackson is only focused on one thing after his MVP season: Winning a Super Bowl

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson deserved every single one of the votes he earned a year ago when he was unanimously voted the NFL's Most Valuable Player.

Jackson electrified in 2019, leading the NFL in passing touchdowns with 36 while shattering the sport's single-season QB rushing yards record with over 1,200 yards on the ground. He led Baltimore to a 14-2 record and the top seed in the AFC before the Ravens were upset by the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs.

On an individual level, there's not much Jackson can do in 2020 to top his personal success in 2019. Well, it's a good thing the QB is not focused on his individual accolades.

Ravens tight end Mark Andrews -- Jackson's top target from 2019 -- spoke to local media on Monday and said that Jackson's only goal for an encore to his MVP season is leading Baltimore to a Super Bowl.

"His biggest goal is to win a Super Bowl. That's his biggest thing," Andrews said. 

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After Jackson's remarkable 2019 campaign, it would be easy for the success he's had to get in his head. But according to Andrews, it's been nothing like that at all for the rising third-year QB.

"There's no superstardom coming from Lamar. Lamar is Lamar, and that's something that we all love about him," Andrew said. "That's something we can kind of relate to, that his head is not too big and it will never get too big, because he's down to earth."

While the Super Bowl is a lofty goal, it's a realistic one for Jackson and the Ravens. But for now, in August, left tackle Ronnie Stanley thinks Jackson should just focus on getting a little better each day, and the rest will work itself out in the long run.

"Just not try to make these tremendous leaps. Everyone kind of tries to put that pressure on you," Stanley said on advice for Jackson following his MVP season. "Just go in every day just trying to get a little bit better. Just keep that focus that, ‘I’m going to get better at this today.’ And just focus on that; not thinking every day that you have to be the perfect person or perfect player, because I feel like guys can get too ahead of themselves."

Entering the 2020 season, Jackson and the Ravens' disappointing performance in the playoffs is what many remembers from their 2019 season. The 14-2 record and overall regular season success are overshadowed by the early playoff exit.

That loss has stuck with Jackson, too, and it's motivated him this entire offseason.

"He's the best player I've ever been around, and he works hard," Andrews said. "So I think you're going to see an even more polished and even more ready Lamar than you saw last year. That sounds almost unbelievable, but the guy is incredible and he's a winner."

And while the expectations for Baltimore in 2020 are as high as they come, Andrews knows Jackson won't change his demeanor to try and accomplish them.

"Lamar is Lamar, man. He's never going to change who he is," Andrews said.

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