The Baltimore Ravens value positional versatility among all their players on both sides of the ball. As an organization, they are firm believers in the “the more you can do” philosophy — from the roster to the coaching staff and down to the scouting department.
While former league MVP Lamar Jackson is the most dynamic dual-threat in NFL history, no member of the franchise embodies and exemplifies versatility than offensive lineman Patrick Mekari.
Since making the team in 2019 as a UDFA out of the University of California, Mekari has played every offensive line position for the Ravens aside from left tackle. He started on the blindside in college and while he has yet to take a snap there in a regular season game. However, he’s lined up there in practice when they’ve been shorthanded and even took some snaps there in the preseason.
After a horrendous outing in the season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders, Mekari helped the offensive line bounce back in their upset win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. He was inserted into the starting lineup at right tackle after All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley sat out with issues stemming from his surgically repaired ankle and veteran Alejandro Villanueva flipped sides back to his natural position.
In his first career start at tackle, Mekari held up well and helped the Ravens offense rack up 251 yards on the ground and 481 total yards. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman was impressed by what his reshuffled blocking unit was able to accomplish. He was particularly enthralled with Mekari’s performance on the edge after playing all but a single half of one of his 15th career games on the interior.
“I’m really proud of the way he played the other night,” said Roman. “Midway through the week, stepping into that role, we’ve had quite a bit of that this season so far. Godwilling and the creek don’t rise, things can settle down a little bit and guys can settle in a little bit.”
Mekari’s rookie year was also Roman’s first as the Ravens’ full-time play-caller on offense. He has had a front row seat to his development and praised him for the traits that have helped him thrive in Baltimore.
“You know, Pat [Mekari] is a special kind of guy. He is as diligent as it gets, from the moment he got here. [He’s] very intelligent, very tough-minded, and he can figure things out instinctively. Once he does something, he can figure out how to fix it. So, you can get a lot of mileage out of that – that skillset and that profile.”
Week 2 wasn’t the first time that Mekari was called upon to start after injuries put the Ravens’ offensive line in a state of flux and it certainly won’t be the last.
As a rookie, Mekari was thrust into the starting lineup midway through a Week 12 primetime matchup against Los Angeles Rams. He held his own against three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald that night and went on to start the final five games of the regular season, as well as the team’s one playoff game.
He was called upon again the following year in 2020 to start one game at guard and then replace Skura as the starting center in Week 9 after multiple snap infractions landed the incumbent on the bench. Mekari once again stepped up to the plate and performed admirably outside of a rough snapping game of his own in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs.
Typically the term “jack of all trades, master of none” is a backhanded compliment used to call a player slightly above average or replacement level. Although in Mekari’s case, it is a ringing endorsement of his incredible aptitude and diverse skillset. This has made him an integral and indispensable piece on the Ravens’ offensive line depth chart.
Players that can play more than one position are becoming more commonplace in today’s NFL, as young athletes are getting cross-trained to do more within their positional scope. However, a player that has the experience and can almost seamlessly be inserted into one of the five spots on the offensive line is still extremely rare.
To have an offensive lineman that can line up on either side as well, snap the ball and perform the intellectual duties of a center is like having a 308-pound swiss army knife. He can play wherever need be in a pinch or for an extended period of time.
Without Mekari, the Ravens likely would’ve had to slide Bradley Bozeman over to center a year or year-and-a-half before he ultimately made the return to his natural position. This would have left them without their best pulling guard in 2020. If they didn’t have him at their disposal right now, they’d likely be starting underwhelming veteran Andre Smith or one of their fledgling tackles on the practice squad at right tackle.
While Mekari doesn’t possess the ideal measurables to play all five positions — especially at tackle with just 31-inch arms — he makes up for it with intelligence, technique, and tenacious attention to detail. His 14 career games of starting experience will serve him well going forward and as he gains more, he will continue to prove just why he is so vital to the team’s success.