One of the most heavily-impacted position groups during the Baltimore Ravens’ injury-riddled 2021 campaign was offensive tackle. All-Pro blindside protector, Ronnie Stanley, played in just one game and didn’t see the field again after the season opener.
Patrick Mekari was solid for the most part in 12 starts at right tackle. Despite his valiant efforts, Alejandro Villanueva was an underwhelming replacement for Stanley and a turnstile at times in some crucial moments.
Their lack of depth at the position reared its ugly head and was evident when Mekari had to miss time with injury and by the fact that they didn’t have a good enough backup option to allow them to bench Villanueva when he was clearly overwhelmed and outmatched.
General Manager Eric DeCosta vowed to replenish and reinforce the position group this offseason and that the team wouldn’t be hamstrung if Stanley suffered another setback in his recovery from ankle surgery. He made good on his word by signing veteran Morgan Moses in free agency, taking rookie Daniel Faalele in this year’s draft, and signing Mekari to an extension.
He signed veteran Ja’Wuan James to a two-year contract last offseason, even though he tore his Achilles in the spring and had to essentially medically redshirt in 2021. Head coach John Harbaugh appreciated the contributions of last year’s skeleton crew but likes what he has seen from this year’s reloaded tackle depth chart, especially from the two veterans.
“I would say those two veteran tackles are major additions from what we had last year,” Harbaugh said. “Alejandro (Villanueva) did a great job but those two guys have looked really good.”
James hasn’t played in an actual game since Week 14 of the 2019 season. He decided to sit out in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns before getting hurt while training away from the .Denver Broncos He was released shortly thereafter. Even though the team hasn’t put on the pads yet, Harbaugh has liked the way the former first-round pick has been able to move around now that he is recovered from his injury.
“He’s been doing good,” Harbaugh said. “I haven’t really noticed the Achilles. We haven’t done any power blocking where he’s had to move anybody off the ball yet. That comes in training camp when the pads come on. He’s moving really well. He’s in great shape. I feel great about him.”
Moses wasn’t in attendance for Wednesday’s voluntary session that was open to the media but Harbaugh said that “he’s doing really well.” Both players are natural right tackles but are capable of flipping sides if needed.
The Ravens are already in much better shape at tackle now than they have been since the 2019 season. Then, they had Stanley, three-time Pro Bowler Orlando Brown Jr., veteran swing tackle James Hurst and Hall of Fame guard Marshal Yanda, who had tackle versatility.