With training camp now in full swing and the calendar turning to August, we’re quickly approaching the start of the 2020 NFL regular season.
Amidst an offseason unlike any other, it’s easy to forget what’s at stake for the Ravens this season and where individual players stand heading into the season. As such, we’ll examine each player’s outlook for the 2020 campaign on a position-by-position basis.
Up next is the offensive line, where the Ravens had one of the better units in the entire NFL in 2019. Maybe the biggest questions facing the Ravens this season is how the offensive line will look without Marshal Yanda and who replaces him in the starting lineup.
We’re beginning to see that take shape already, but there are some other developments to watch for as well.
The bar is set high for Ronnie Stanley heading into 2020. Stanley is fresh off by far the best season of his career and stands to earn himself quite a bit of money with the end of his rookie contract nearing.
Stanley deservedly was selected to the All-Pro first-team last season after grading out as the best pass-protector in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. Stanley locked down Lamar Jackson’s blindside all season long and ensured the eventual MVP was kept upright.
A near-flawless campaign in 2019 would suggest some regression is likely from Stanley this season. However, the former Notre Dame product is squarely in the prime of his career at 26 years old.
Look for Stanley to maintain a very high level of play in 2020 and step into more of a leadership role on the offensive line in the absence of Marshal Yanda.
Orlando Brown Jr.
After earning a Pro Bowl nod in his sophomore season, albeit as an injury replacement, Orlando Brown Jr. will be looking to take another step forward in 2020.
Brown was rock solid for the majority of last season, establishing himself as a high-end starter at the right tackle position and exceptional pass-blocker. Brown did have the benefit of playing next to a future Hall of Famer, though, in Marshal Yanda — so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts without Yanda in the lineup this year.
Without Yanda in the fold, Brown is now elevated to being the team’s second-best offensive lineman behind Ronnie Stanley. As a result, there’s more pressure on Brown to deliver consistently and make the jump from the above-average territory into the upper echelon of offensive tackles in the NFL.
It’s hard to envision Brown taking a step back as he enters his third career season, and just his second as a full-time stater to begin the year. Look for him to pick up where he left off in 2019 and make further strides.
The only other solidified starter returning from last season is Bradley Bozeman, who suited up in all 16 games at left guard. Bozeman’s second career season was far better than his rookie year, but overall his 2019 showing was just so-so.
In 1,105 total snaps, Bozeman allowed four sacks and committed six penalties. He finished the season with a PFF grade of 63.4. Bozeman’s individual deficiencies were masked by several factors, including the offensive scheme, Lamar Jackson’s escapability, and playing next to Ronnie Stanley on the left side of the line.
With that being said, though, Bozeman did have some strong moments throughout the season, particualrly when pulling in space and blocking downhill.
Bozeman played well enough to maintain a grip on the starting left guard spot, but the depth chart behind him is larger and more competitive heading into 2020. Another year of experience and continuity in the system will likely serve Bozeman well this season.
Perhaps the biggest wild card on this list is Matt Skura, who recently returned to the practice field for the first time since Week 11 of last season.
Skura suffered a gruesome knee injury against the Rams last year, tearing his ACL, MCL, PCL and dislocating his knee cap all in the same play. In the wake of such terrible news, it appeared Skura’s future with the Ravens was up in the air heading into 2020.
However, after signing a one-year tender with Baltimore this offseason, Skura has made remarkable progress in his recovery and is now on track to potentially retaining his role as the team’s starting center come Week 1. Prior to undergoing season-ending surgery in 2019, Skura was in the midst of a career-best season.
He made several key blocks throughout the first half of the year and played more refined, consistent football. If he can return to 100% health and pick up where he left off last season, it will be a significant boost to the Ravens’ interior offensive line.
The individual who stepped up in the wake of Skura’s injury last season was UDFA Patrick Mekari. Mekari was thrust into a starting role mid-game against one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL, the Rams, and more than held his own.
From there, Mekari continued to exceed expectations over the second half of the 2019 season. He struggled against in the Ravens’ postseason loss to Tennessee, but so did the entire offensive line franky — so it’s unfair to pin too much blame on Mekari.
Mekari is far from a proven commodity and certainly has some skills to work on, but he has the makings of a solid spot-starter and quality backup offensive lineman. On top of what he showed last year, Mekari can also play multiple positions along the line, too.
Mekari’s role in 2020 is largely predicated on Skura’s recovery. Mekari has been running with the first-team offensive through training camp thus far and it wouldn’t be surprising if that continues to begin the regular season as Skura continues to work himself back into playing shape.
It’s rare to see a player completely transform his body in one offseason, but that’s exactly what D.J. Fluker did over the past few months.
Fluker told reporters earlier this week that he cut his body fat percentage from 44% to 21%, which is frankly a remarkable feat. Fluker is evidently in peak physical condition and appears primed to seize the opportunity in front him in Baltimore.
Fluker was signed to a one-year deal this offseason and immediately was seen by many as the favorite to replace Yanda as the Ravens’ starting right guard. This development has manifested thus far in training camp, as Fluker has been running exclusively with the starters on offense.
His career has been a bit of a rollercoaster since entering the league as a first-round pick back in 2013. Fluker was released by the Giants in 2017 after just one season and released by the Seahawks a few months ago after two seasons with Seattle.
There’s been highs and lows for Fluker, but the arrow appears to be pointing up as he’s set to begin his first season with the Ravens.
In the immediate wake of Marshal Yanda’s retirement, it was presumed that Ben Powers might be go-to succession plan at the vacant right guard spot. However, as the offseason has progressed, Powers stock has trended downwards.
By signing Fluker in free agency and drafting a pair of offensive lineman, the Ravens created a bit of a logjam at offensive guard — one which Powers does not seem primed to emerge from as a starter.
Powers suited up in one game during his rookie season, the Week 17 finale against Pittsburgh, and showcased some flashes of high level ability. While he’s far from being a starter-caliber player at this point, Powers does possess some upside down the line.
In 2020, he’s likely to serve as the primary backup behind both Fluker and Bozeman, as Powers is capable of playing either guard spot. There’s also an off-chance scenario in which the Ravens choose to play Bozeman at center, in which case Powers would be the favorite to slide into the starting spot at left guard.
The first of two rookies joining the depth chart this season is Tyre Phillips, a third-round selection of of Mississippi State.
Nicknamed “Big Country”, Phillips is a physical specimen with some athletic tools to be excited about. What’s also appealing is his versatility. Phillips largely played tackle in college but the Ravens have already flirted with the idea of transitioning him into more of a guard, where he could perform better in the NFL.
He needs to become more consistent in his technique and harness his physical attributes to see the field moving forward, though.
Phillips is a longshot to win a starting role in 2020 but could potentially see action in the event of an injury. Phillips may also be in-line to serve as the primary backup tackle behind Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr.
Another newcomer along the offensive line is rookie Ben Bredeson. Bredeson is no stranger to being coached by a Harbaugh brother after playing four seasons at Michigan.
Bredeson was a tackle prospect coming out of high school but thrived as a guard at the college level, while also possessing the prototypical physical look of a center. This is a continued theme with the Ravens’ offensive lineman, particularly among the backups, which is that they can all play multiple positions.
As is the case for Phillips, it would take an injury or two for Bredeson to see consistent playing time in 2020. And without the benefit of a preseason, he won’t have the chance to showcase in-game skills prior to the start of the regular season.
However, as an accomplished prospect with solid upside, Bredeson’s roster spot is safe heading into the season. Along with the players listed above, he’ll provide depth at numerous spots on the offensive line.