As the NFL pre-season comes to an end this coming week and the regular season is about to open with the Piitsburgh Steelers coming to M&T Bank Stadium on September 11th, the media along with many fans have expressed deep concern on the state of the Baltimore Ravens offensive line. In three games so far this pre-season, Ravens quarterbacks have been sacked 12 times and harried countless others.
The offensive line received a lot of attention in the press and on the airwaves during the off-season but received little attention by the team other than the drafting of OT Jah Reid in the 3rd round of the 2011 NFL Draft. However, over the past week or so the offensive line has made a bunch of changes, with signings and releases making the headlines.
In one week, the rookie Reid has gone from possible starter to probable third string, with the signing of tackle Mark LeVoir and now the news that recently signed tackle Bryant McKinnie will play left tackle with Michael Oher moving back to the right side. Veteran guard Oniel Cousins was released yesterday along with undrafted rookie Ryan Bartholomew, meaning that backup center Bryan Mattison has earned himself a roster spot in relief of starting center Mark Birk.
Speaking of Birk both he and guard Marshal Yanda returned to practice today, raising hope that both will be ready tostart for the season opener. If so, the Ravens offensive line will look like this: Left tackle Bryant McKinnie, left guard Ben Grubbs, center Matt Birk, right guard Marshal Yanda, and right tackle Michael Oher.
This lineup has not yet taken the playing field together as a single unit, so at this point, no one truly can say how good, or even how bad this group can be. Most fans are thrilled to have a re-energized McKinnie, a former All-Pro on the left side as they realize that Oher was one of the better right tackles in the league before moving to the "blind side."
If McKinnie is in game shape by September 11th, he might be able to really prove to the Minnesota Vikings that they made a huge mistake releasing him, and winning a Super Bowl ring as a member of the ravens would be the best motivation he could hopefully imagine. A healthy Birk and Yanda are huge upgrades over the recently released Cousins and the reserve Mattison. Add in the always consistent Ben Grubbs along with the aforementioned McKinnie and Oher, and suddenly what looked like a big problem might actually become a major piece to the Ravens offensive puzzle coming into focus.