Just two days prior to the Baltimore Ravens showdown on Monday Night Football with their division rival Cincinnati Bengals, the team announced that last season's starting left tackle Bryant McKinnie would not be starting at left tackle against the Bengals. Instead the Ravens chose to go with the much younger Michael Oher.
The move puzzled fans and media alike because the teams mantra thus far is that they would have their best five linemen on the field come game day and McKinnie is considered the Ravens best left tackle.
It was also assumed that either veteran Bobbie Williams or rookie Kelechi Osemele would play left guard. Osemele then tweeted that he expected to start at right tackle for game one of the 2012 season, so many fans figured that Williams would start at left guard against his former team. However much to the surprise to everyone third year tackle project Ramon Harewood got the start at LG and both McKinnie and Williams started on the bench. During the preseason many thought that Harewood might be in danger of even making the final 53-man roster much less find himself in the week one starting line-up.Although the offensive line alignment was much of a surprise to everyone but the Ravens coaching staff, when looking at the reasoning behind what was done it actually makes a lot of sense.
The Ravens wanted to keep the Bengals defense off guard and keep them from making in-drive substitutions to adjust to whatever schemes the Ravens were running on offense. Having an offensive line full of young, athletic linemen was key for Baltimore in running their no/sugar huddle offense for much of the game. Had they started the older and slower McKinnie and Williams the two of them may not have been able to keep up with the fast paced offense.
The line did work well together for the majority of the game but the offense used a lot of misdirection and play action thus negating much of the pass rush the Bengals may have tried to bring. It will be interesting to see if the Ravens keep this same line up up front in each game throughout the season or if they tailor who they use where more to the opponent they play and what kind of schemes they run on defense.