Reporting Vinny Cerrato
We went into the preseason with a bevy of questions along the Ravens offensive line. Would Michael Oher be able to improve fundamentally and perform up to his abilities? Re-signing Marshall Yanda was a priority, but would he be forced back into action at Right Tackle or could he shift back to his natural position on the inside? Could 3rd round pick Jah Reid step up and seize the starting Right Tackle job without the benefit of offseason OTAs and minicamps? Matt Birk was recovering from knee surgery, who would step up and fill the void at Center while he was on the shelf? Despite all of these questions, the Ravens have their starting five. Ben Grubbs and Marshal Yanda return at Guard flanking Center Matt Birk. The newly acquired Bryant McKinnie will be playing Left Tackle and Michael Oher is back at Right Tackle.
McKinnie, Grubbs, Birk, Yanda, and Oher have are proven NFL starters, but they have a lot to prove as a unit. They need to come together very quickly if the Ravens expect to have success against Pittsburgh September 11th. It will be very interesting to see how communication develops over the next two weeks. Dick LeBeau will have game plan ripe with all of his trademark blitzes and stunts. The only way these guys, and the Ravens’ offense, stand a chance is if they can work together.
Beyond working together, there are still a few questions with these guys individually. Matt Birk has not taken a snap yet this preseason and has to line up across from Casey Hampton come Week One. Can he and that surgically repaired left knee hold up against one of the game’s premier Nose Tackles? Does Michael Oher turn the corner and eliminate the penalties and mental errors that have plagued him thus far? Bryant McKinnie has the most to prove. Can he digest the new playbook? More importantly, the Ravens need four quarters of football from McKinnie. After reporting to Vikings camp at nearly 400 pounds, can he deliver that?
Needless to say, the offensive line will be a work in progress this year. These guys have a lot of work to get done in a very short amount of time, and no one knows how long it will take for them to jell. There is a lot of talent up front, but can they get their act together? Joe Flacco and Ray Rice stand to benefit greatly if the line comes together quickly, but their health will suffer if it does not.