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John Harbaugh Gives Insight Into Ravens' Starting Offensive Line


The Ravens' offensive line seems to have as many combinations as a Rubik's cube these days (OK, maybe not that many).

With starters gone at center and right tackle, it's been anyone's guess as to how the Ravens are going to line up come Week 1 in Cincinnati. The only spots that are known for sure are Ronnie Stanley at left tackle and Marshal Yanda at right guard.

While Thursday's Organized Team Activities (OTAs) practice lineup isn't final by any means, it did at least give insight into the Ravens' current thinking.

Baltimore's offensive line was Stanley at left tackle, Alex Lewis at left guard, Ryan Jensen at center, John Urschel at right guard and James Hurst at right tackle.

Harbaugh liked the group that he saw on the field Thursday, and the blockers are enjoying it too. There's been media chatter about Baltimore potentially* *adding more offensive linemen this summer, but it remains to be seen whether it will be needed.

"We want to come out and be the best group, prove a lot of people wrong," Lewis said. "We're excited to put our hand in the dirt and get rolling."

Lewis is a versatile piece to the line that could change up the rotation at any time. His best position may be left guard, but he filled in at left tackle last season and could be shifted to right tackle or center. Harbaugh was asked whether it's more likely that Lewis will stay at guard.

"I would say that it is still too early for that, but I can tell you that he is taking the reps at left guard," Harbaugh said. "When you start seeing him take reps at right tackle, then you will know that is probably becoming more of a consideration. But, he looks good at left guard, and that is where we are at right now."

Lewis reiterated his previous stance that it doesn't matter to him where he plays. When asked if he has a preference, he quipped, "Yeah, starting. I play O-line."

But there's no doubt that Lewis likes left guard. It's where he settled into a groove as a rookie starter last season next to Stanley. According to Pro Football Focus, Lewis had his best game of the year at guard against the Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium.

"You get to pull, hit people and you're always helping out, whether it's Ronnie or the center," Lewis said. "It's a lot of fun at guard, pulling around the front side, pulling around to the outside, and there is a lot of versatility at guard. And it's right there in your face; it's you against me."

At tackle, Lewis would have a lot more space to deal with, and more speed coming off the edge. While he can handle that, he also likes to maul opponents with his toughness and physicality.

Hurst has been given the first crack at the starting right tackle spot left open by Rick Wagner's free-agency departure to Detroit. Harbaugh said Hurst made a strong impression when returning from the offseason.

"We were watching during our football schools, and James really stood out in terms of knowing what he was doing [with his] technique," Harbaugh said. "And he looked really good physically. He is another guy that has bulked up quite a bit.

"I expect him to be a more physical player, but he has always been smart, he has always been a good athlete. He has played in big games for us. He deserves that opportunity."

The other three competitors at right tackle, outside of Lewis potentially sliding over, are De'Ondre Wesley, who was playing left tackle with the second-team offense Thursday, Stephane Nembot who was at second-team right tackle, and rookie fifth-round pick Jermaine Eluemunor.

Hurst has, by far, the most experience of the bunch. The former undrafted North Carolina product has started 18 games (including two in the 2014 playoffs as a rookie), and had a strong finish to last season when he started at right tackle.

Then there's center, which is also still up in the air. Jensen was there Thursday, but it's unknown whether he would* *still be with the first team had Urschel not been filling in at right guard for Yanda.

Harbaugh said he likes Jensen as a player, and that his skillset lends itself best to that position. The Ravens have talked about getting bigger and more physical up front after trading Jeremy Zuttah. That's Jensen's game, and he stands in at 6-foot-4 and about 320 pounds (up 10 pounds from his listed weight).

"He is sitting there between the two guards. He is smart, he can go in both directions. He is a tone-setter, and he really has gotten big and strong," Harbaugh said. "When you go talk to him in the locker room, you are going to see a 320-plus pound guy that has less than 20 percent body fat. That is really impressive."

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