Perhaps no player is under the media microscope more than right tackle
Wagner, a fifth-round pick a year ago, is competing for the starting spot at right tackle. It’s a key spot considering Michael Oher left via free agency and the Ravens need improvement from the line in both run blocking and pass protection.
While every bigger-name free agent tackle that hits the market sets off a storm of questions about whether the Ravens will bring him in, Wagner has yet to be displaced with the first team.
It looks more and more like the Ravens believe he’s their guy, especially when listening to the coaches.
“To me, Ricky has been – I don’t want to say he’s a surprise, because I expected him to play well – but I think we put a lot on his plate early walking in here as a starter, new scheme and those types of things,” Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak said last week.
“He has responded and hasn’t missed a rep. He plays very hard in what we’re doing, so we just have to keep going. But I’ve been very pleased with Ricky.”
Wagner has the physical traits and pedigree to get the job done. He’s 6-foot-6, 308 pounds with Midwest strength. He hails from a strong lineage of Wisconsin blockers.
Wagner got a taste of starting last year as a rookie when he had to come in for Michael Oher in Week 1 against Denver. It was a rough assignment and he struggled at times. Wagner spent the rest of the year as an extra blocker in jumbo formations.
Now Wagner’s getting another taste of running with the starters, and he feels good about it.
“It’s been going really good – just trying to get the new offense going, and I feel really comfortable right now,” Wagner said. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Wagner said the majority of his work is getting down the playbook. At the owners’ meetings in March, Head Coach John Harbaugh eluded to Wagner being a player that needs to know his assignments very well. Once he does, he can be very successful.
“I want to be a consistent blocker – just doing my job, not hearing too much from [the media], grinding and doing my job,” Wagner said.
The competition level elevated in minicamp as veteran pass rushers
The true indicator of Wagner’s progression will come during training camp when players are allowed to hit each other. Once the pads come on, Wagner will get everything the Ravens defense can throw at him. So far, he’s held up well as the essential fifth piece in the offensive line.
“I like the offensive line,” Harbaugh said. “From what you can see, they’re in sync, footwork looks good, assignments look very good. We’ll find out when the pads come on.”