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Ravens Offensive Line Coach Breaks Down Competition

Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris working with G Ben Cleveland.
Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris working with G Ben Cleveland.

At the beginning of every practice, Offensive Line Coach Joe D'Alessandris is on the field teaching, encouraging, and demonstrating with his unique style as he puts the linemen through individual drills.

Nobody is more invested in the Ravens' offensive line than D'Alessandris. Entering his 17th NFL season and his eighth season with the Ravens, D'Alessandris is one of the NFL's most respected position coaches. He has worked with Pro Bowlers like Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Orlando Brown Jr. and Tyler Linderbaum. He has helped develop former Ravens like Ryan Jensen, Bradley Bozeman and John Simpson who went on to sign lucrative contracts elsewhere as free agents.

D'Alessandris has an urgent mission this offseason - to help determine Baltimore's new starters at left guard, right guard and right tackle. The Ravens don't often change three-fifths of their offensive line, and for a team with Super Bowl aspirations, it's important that they get it right.

Everyone wants to know what D'Alessandris is thinking. Who has looked the best so far in OTAs and mandatory minicamp? Has the coaching staff moved any closer to naming the starting offensive line, and when will that happen? Will the Ravens stay in-house with all three new starters, or are they still thinking seriously about acquiring a veteran offensive lineman?

D'Alessandris won't reveal everything he knows. But he's been impressed by how the offensive linemen competing for jobs have approached the situation.

"I've seen good competition," D'Alessandris said. "I've seen each guy working, and I move them around quite a bit – for their benefit and also for our benefit.

"This is the time of year where you're learning assignment, communication and playing fast. The contact is not there. That's going to come. Training camp is what that's built for along with games. Then, we'll see how it plays out from there."

D'Alessandris confirmed Wednesday that the Ravens prefer Patrick Mekari to remain a valuable backup at all five line positions, rather than join the starting lineup.

"In my eyes, he's a starter, but he can play multiple positions, and that's the role that we'd like to see him in right now," D'Alessandris said.

With Stanley (left tackle) and Linderbaum (center) set as returning starters, the work to find clarity among the three battles for starting positions continues.

At left guard, Andrew Vorhees, Josh Jones and Sala Aumavae-Laulu are candidates to start, but most linemen are getting reps at multiple positions. Vorhees is fully recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him last year as a rookie, and D'Alessandris has been impressed.

"Andrew is a driven young man," D'Alessandris said. "His injury, how he's come back, he's just done a heck of a job so far. From Day 1 to where he is today, he'll continue to grow."

Ben Cleveland is one of the candidates vying to start at right guard, but Daniel Faalele and Jones are also in the mix.

At right tackle, second-round pick Roger Rosengarten has a chance to start as a rookie, but Faalele and Jones are options there, too.

"I think Daniel now is becoming more of a good football player, in a sense," D'Alessandris said. "He's starting to feel comfortable in his body and what he can do, and we're working him at right tackle. We're working him at somewhat right guard, and he's played left tackle before."

D'Alessandris said Rosengarten is handling his rookie mistakes well, learning quickly and not getting down on himself.

"He's eager, he hustles, he gives good effort, he plays to succeed, and it's just about continued growth, understanding the offense," D'Alessandris said. "You're going to have some ups. You're going to have some downs. I'm glad we have him. He's a heck of a young man."

Head Coach John Harbaugh has said he'd like to have a starting offensive line decided on by Week 2 of training camp, but that's not etched in stone. With training camp and preseason games still ahead, D'Alessandris said the coaching staff will continue letting the competition play out.

"We all work together, so we'll see," D'Alessandris said. "If Coach says, 'Hey, Joe. We want a starting unit by the second week,' then we'll deliver."

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