May 23, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens tackle Bryant McKinnie (78), tackle Michael Oher (74) and tackle Marshal Yanda (73) during the Baltimore Ravens OTA at the team practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE
Literally... Bryant McKinnie's unexplained absence puts the Baltimore Ravens in a really tough position. Not only is he the biggest man on the offensive line but he plays the biggest role, has the most experience and literally watches quarterback Joe Flacco's back. Had the Ravens known McKinnie would not be showing up to training camp it could have changed their entire off season. They could have drafted differently. They could have taken a different approach to free agency as well.
From what we are hearing from the team no one seems to have any idea if or when McKinnie will be returning to the team, or if they even want him to. John Harbaugh stated to the press that the team is more than confident in Michael Oher starting at the left tackle position, which he played in college. For some reason I don't think the fans are as confident. Oher played left tackle in his second season (2010) and did not have the best of seasons. Although Michael is now in his fourth season and the game should be slowing down for him, he still showed trouble with penalties last season at right tackle.
Michael Oher may be ready to move back to the blind side. He has been a work out warrior throughout the off season and was one of the most frequently seen players at the Ravens team facility in Owings Mills. Maybe this will be his year to prove all his doubters wrong. The problem does not end there however. If Oher is moved to left tackle then the team needs to find someone to fill in for him at right tackle. In the past the Ravens have always shown confidence in certain players throughout the week to play tackle, if there was an injury to one of their starters, but once game day came around, more often than not, they would move right guard Marshal Yanda out to tackle and have someone else step in at the guard position.
The Ravens have more unexplored young talent on their offensive line this season than in years past however. Rookie guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele filled in for Oher in practice today and he definitely looks the part. He is a big, big man. The team has yet to really see what tackle Ramone Harewood has to offer as well. Sophomore Tackle Jah Reid is another intriguing option. If one of these young players shows some promise in camp maybe they give them a shot in the preseason and the rest of the line can stay put.
The trouble really starts if not one of these players is truly NFL ready. Then you'll see the Ravens start to shuffle guys around and things could get messy. One good thing we know is that they have plenty of guys who can play guard. The bad thing is that we have only one experienced NFL tackle. The last time I checked you needed at least two, four would be the ideal number.
All this is dependent on Bryant McKinnie. What is his problem? How long will it hold him out? Will the Ravens even be willing to deal with him when he is ready to return? We all saw what happened when they got sick of dealing with a player when they cut ties with Jared Gaither, and that was health issues. No one even knows what McKinnie's deal is. The trouble with Gaither is pretty much the whole reason we are in this mess right now any way. The Chargers are probably laughing their butts off right now just waiting for Antwan Barns to have another multi sack game against us in 2012.
Whatever the case may be, the one who will suffer in all of this is Joe flacco. You know in the back of his mind he has to be thinking, "So this is how it's going to be in my contract season?! You gotta be kidding me?!"
There is one person that seems to think everything will work out between McKinnie and the Ravens and that is current left tackle Michael Oher. When asked about the big man's return, here is what Oher had to say...
"I think so. He sounds positive," Oher said before recounting some of their conversation.
"Like I told him, 'Take your time and we'll be waiting for you.’ Take care of anything he has going on. I'm pretty sure he'll get everything squared away."
Well, he either knows something that no one else does or it is some truly hopeful thinking. Let's hope it's the former rather than the latter...