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Late For Work 5/16: Another Option Emerges for the Offensive Line


Another Option Emerges for the Offensive Line

The offensive line is one of the biggest uncertainties for the Ravens right now.

Last year's starters at right tackle and center are gone, right guard Marshal Yanda is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and second-year lineman Alex Lewis' position is unknown.

The Ravens have been mentioned as potential suitors for free agents like center Nick Mangold or tackle King Dunlap, and now another intriguing veteran has hit the market. The Chargers released guard/tackle Orlando Franklin Monday, just two years after signing him to a reported $36.5 million deal.

Franklin, 29, started his career as a right tackle with Denver, but moved to left guard in 2014. He was one of the league’s best guards three years ago, but has struggled the last two seasons in San Diego.

The 6-foot-6, 315-pound lineman is a durable player who was started 89 games over his six-year career.

"At this stage of his career, the 29-year-old is probably best suited to stay inside at guard, which leads to the obvious question as it pertains to the Ravens: Is Franklin a good fit for a team that has questions at two or three spots along the offensive line?" asks The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec.

To answer that question, Zrebiec believes the Ravens must first decide what to do with Lewis. He was stellar at left guard last season, and filled in at left tackle when Ronnie Stanley was hurt. The Ravens could kick Lewis out to right tackle to replace Rick Wagner, or maybe even put him at center after trading Jeremy Zuttah to San Francisco.

For what it's worth, Lewis says he doesn't care where he plays. He just wants to be one of the five starters.

"Where the Ravens decide to put Lewis, the 2016 fourth-round pick, should factor into whether the team makes a run at Franklin or any of the other available guards," Zrebiec wrote. "[Head Coach John] Harbaugh has made it clear that the Ravens believe that Lewis' best position, both now and in the future, is left guard and in a perfect world, they'd prefer keeping him there. They think he'll develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber guard."

Signing Franklin would likely be an indication that Lewis is on the move, and Zrebiec isn't so sure he likes that idea.

"It would seem pretty simple to go out and sign a guy like Franklin, if you do indeed believe he's the best guard available, and then move Lewis to right tackle," Zrebiec wrote. "In doing that, though, you run the risk of hurting yourself at two positions: Lewis might not be as good as Wagner at right tackle, and [rookie Nico] Siragusa or Franklin, or whoever else you add, might not be as good as Lewis would be at left guard. You also run the risk of potentially hurting Lewis' development at one position by moving him back and forth between tackle and guard." 

But not everyone shares that opinion. USA Today’s Matthew Stevens believes Franklin would be a good addition to the young offensive line.

"In Franklin, the Ravens would get a player with experience at both right tackle and left guard, seemingly a perfect fit for their biggest need along the line," Stevens wrote. "Franklin would give Baltimore options with how they want to set up their offensive line, a huge value in today's NFL where a lack of flexibility can mean disaster with just a single injury."

Could Darren Waller Switch Positions Again?

The Ravens have a lot of young receivers, but there are still questions about who will emerge as the go-to playmakers.

Chris Moore and Michael Campanaro have consistently been mentioned as players who could step into larger receiving roles, but Russell Street Report’s Adam Bonaccorsi has another idea.

What about receiver-turned-tight end Darren Waller transitioning back to receiver?

"Suddenly, a thin tight end group looks crowded once again," Bonaccorsi wrote. "Yet across the locker room, sits a thin group of wide receivers, and Waller would be wise to revert to his old position."

Competition for will be stiff among a tight ends group that includes Dennis Pitta, Benjamin Watson, Nick Boyle, Crockett Gillmore and Maxx Williams. But the receiver group needs a complementary, chain-moving receiver.

Waller could be that guy. The 6-foot-6, 255-pound receiver is a big target with good speed. He caught 10 passes last year for 85 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

"Having Waller on the outside gives Joe a quick-hit target to pop off those 5-10 yard gains at will – a key factor in an offense that will look to focus on running the ball and hopefully keep the team in more 3rd-and-short scenarios," Bonaccorsi wrote.

*Film Study of Marlon Humphrey *

The Ravens drafted cornerback Marlon Humphrey in the first round as part of an offseason effort to upgrade the secondary. Baltimore Beatdown’s Matthew Cohen pulled up video of Humphrey's college games, and the first point that jumped out was how he excelled in press coverage.

"In the Peach Bowl against Washington, Humphrey was matched up with the most talented wide receiver he had faced all year to that point, John Ross. Ross is small, but his rise into the top 10 of the draft was due to his blazing speed," Cohen wrote.

"I recommend watching that entire video because Humphrey is able to take John Ross completely out of the game. This is good to see, as the Ravens will be seeing Ross twice a year [with the Bengals] for the next five years."

Cohen dives deep into Humphrey's game, looking at areas like his footwork, deep ball tracking and tackling ability. After looking through several games, Cohen believes the "best aspect of Marlon Humphrey's game is how well he plays in zone coverage."

"He is physical and shows good coverage skills in zone, and in short yardage scenarios for press/man, but his biggest struggle is down the field," he wrote. "If Humphrey is able to improve at locating the ball, he could develop into an excellent cornerback for the Ravens, and one that should form a dominant duo with Jimmy Smith."

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