The state of the Baltimore Ravens’ starting offensive line is one of the biggest question marks and or concerns for the team heading into the 2021 season. The unit has been the second most heavily impacted by injuries during training camp behind only wide receivers.
Building up a sense of familiarity among the projected starting five is something that the Ravens and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman would like to have established, at least to some degree, before the season opener that is less than a month away.
“We need to start pushing for that continuity. Now is about that time,” Roman said. “When you look at the calendar and where we’re at, the more time we can get those guys together – communicating together, getting a feel for each other – it’s tangible, it’s real. The more of that, the better off we’ll be.”
They’re currently trending in the right direction with the return of right guard Kevin Zeitler and All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley, who has been participating in practice in a limited capacity for over a week since being activated from the PUP list. Those two veterans are the Ravens’ best pass protectors and will be integral in keeping starting quarterback Lamar Jackson upright this year.
With four of the five starting spots secured with Bradley Bozeman at center and newcomer Alejandro Villanueva at right tackle, that leaves left guard as the only spot up for grabs. It was dubbed as one of the top storylines to watch for in training camp and according to Roman, there still isn’t a clear front runner.
“It’s really wide open,” Roman said. “A lot of guys could occupy that spot. We’re going to keep working through all the different scenarios.”
The competition is viewed as a five-man race between third-year pros Ben Powers and Patrick Mekari, second-year pros Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson, and rookie third-rounder Ben Cleveland who is viewed as the favorite from the outside looking in. Cleveland wasn’t able to make his NFL debut in the Ravens’ 17-14 win over the New Orleans Saints due to a concussion and outside of Bredeson, the rest of the candidates didn’t look great although some of them were playing out of position at times while the coaching staff was experimenting.
“Nobody has grabbed it just yet,” Roman said. “There’s merit for everybody at this point. We’ll see who keeps stepping forward, who keeps stepping up. It’s a big thing though. The faster we can get that done the better. But whenever it happens, we’ll make it work.”
Getting that position solidified sooner rather than later would be in the best interest of building up that chemistry prior to the regular season. With Cleveland back at practice and expected to get his first taste of NFL action in Week 2 of the preseason against the Carolina Panthers, he could begin to stake his claim or pull ahead.
The Ravens and Panthers are holding joint practices this week ahead of Saturday’s exhibition game. It will provide additional opportunities against an opposing team for the rookie and the other young players fighting for the spot to stand out and separate themselves from the pack.