The left guard position has been an important topic of discussion since the beginning of the offseason. Last year’s starter Alex Lewis was traded to the Jets for a 2020 seventh-round draft pick after an inconsistent and injury-riddled three years with the Ravens. Coaches were hoping that someone would outplay their competition after the Lewis trade, but nobody has done so.
With no clear-cut starter at the moment, the past two preseason games have been used as a measure of consistency to determine who would be best fit to handle starting LG duties. Matters have only become more complicated with at-the-moment starter, Jermaine Eluemunor, being carted off the field in Monday’s joint practice against the Philadelphia Eagles.
During the last preseason game against the Packers, there was no obvious starter who took first-term reps and sat out the rest of the game. Eluemunor played with the starters in the first quarter and came back in later in the fourth quarter. It appeared as if Coach Harbaugh wanted to give Eluemunor more reps in order to make him more comfortable at the position. In multiple training camp practices preceding the beginning of the preseason, Eluemunor was subject to multiple false start penalties and even had to jog laps around the field as a form of punishment.
Despite Eluemunor struggling as the starting LG, he put together a strong performance against the Packers in all facets of the game. A recap of his performance can be observed by our very own Spencer Schultz’s film review of the Week 2 preseason game.
Despite Eluemunor’s bounce-back performance, his injury does not help the LG situation. In addition to Eluemunor standing out against the Pakcers, undrafted rookie free agent Patrick Mekari also showed why he should be in the mix for the starting LG spot. In the past few practices as well as against the Packers, Mekari has shown a mean streak and a willingness to absorb contact and create holes for running backs. Though he is still considerably raw, he will certainly make the team and make a possible impact during the regular season.
On the contrary, rookie fourth-round draft pick Ben Powers has underwhelmed at the LG spot, earning himself limited opportunities to play with the first-team offense. Powers has been consistently running with the second-team offense.
James Hurst, who is currently starting at RG in place of the injured Marshal Yanda (who Harbaugh expects to be ready by Week 1), will also be considered to fill the LG spot. Hurst has had experience at LG in the past and would be the most experienced starting LG candidate, but his performance in recent memory has been average at best.
Could the Ravens try to move current starting center Matt Skura over to LG? Skura also has experience starting at guard and did quite well. However, I don’t foresee Skura making a switch unless the offensive line is on the verge of being in complete shambles.
Although the Ravens have exhausted all of their internal LG options, Eric DeCosta has considered looking externally for help at the position. Veterans Vladimir Ducasse and Evan Smith may be considered as viable plugs at for the Ravens. Additionally, the Ravens will keep an eye on a number of Philadelphia Eagles backup offensive linemen, Stefen Wisniewski in particular, as the roster trim-down from 90 to 53 nears.
Keep in mind, Ducasse was on the Ravens roster during their 2016 season where he was quite effective when he started eight games at LG. The 31-year old would add needed veteran presence at the position as well as familiarity with Ravens coaches and former teammates.
Wisniewski, assuming he fails to make the Eagles roster, would be a very nice veteran stopgap at LG. Wisniewski has been very solid for the Eagles for the past three years; he also started at LG when the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2017. Wisniewski is no stranger to being on the big stage and his addition would be a welcoming one to say the least.
Will DeCosta pull the trigger with Smith, Wisniewski, or Ducasse? If Eluemunor injury is discovered to be serious, then I could see DeCosta look for outside help. Otherwise, the currently rostered left guards will be given every chance to beat out one another for the starting job.
With all of this being said, I believe the LG competition will sort itself out internally (if Eluemunor injury proves to be minor). With two preseason games remaining, certain guards will inevitably play better than others, which will give coaches a better idea of who should start. On the contrary, due to the overall inexperience at LG, don’t be surprised if DeCosta looks for outside help in an attempt to better solidify the position.