The Ravens entered training camp needing to decide on a new starting right guard, and whether Matt Skura would be ready to start at center Sept. 13 against the Cleveland Browns. Those evaluations are still being made, but decisions are getting close, according to Head Coach John Harbaugh.
"We're honed in pretty well I would say," Harbaugh said. "There's still some things we need to talk about. We have a couple of more practices before game week. I'm sure we'll be there game week. I wouldn't say we're 100 percent there yet."
D.J. Fluker, Tyre Phillips, Ben Bredeson and Ben Powers have all been part of the right guard competition, which was created by the retirement of eight-time Pro Bowler Marshal Yanda. Throughout training camp, the Ravens have been rotating young linemen into different positions, trying to build depth along the entire unit. Depth is particularly important during a season being played during the coronavirus pandemic.
Phillips, a third-round pick from Mississippi State, is a player who has already shown versatility. A tackle in college, Phillips he has seen reps at guard and tackle and Harbaugh is pleased with his progress.
"He's a good football player, I think that's the main thing," Harbaugh said. "We saw the ability to play guard or tackle. I think he can play on the right side or the left side. He's just a really versatile kind of player. He's a good athlete, bends well, very smart, comes from a great family. Got a really good demeanor about him, doesn't get down on himself at all, just pushes through it and learns from his mistakes."
As for Skura, he has made tremendous progress recovering from his major knee injury suffered last season. Patrick Makari, who took over as the starter following Skura's injury, remains available to start if Skura does not. The Ravens don't have to decide on a starting lineup quite yet, giving Skura a little more time. Harbaugh said Skura came out of Saturday's scrimmage with no setbacks.
"He did well, no hiccups, no issues," Harbaugh said. "We're just going to keep pushing him forward with more challenging things each day. We'll know by next week where he's at. Matt will know where he's at. We'll see how he's doing with it as we get close to the game."
Will an Undrafted Free Agent Make 53-man Roster?
For 16 straight years, an undrafted rookie has made the Ravens initial 53-man roster. With the cutdown to 53 players scheduled for Saturday, we will soon find out if the streak continues. Practice squads are being increased from 10 players to 16 players this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Harbaugh says that will impact roster decisions.
"Don't know yet," Harbaugh said when asked about whether the undrafted rookie streak would live on. "There's guys that are doing well. This year, I think something to really bear in mind is that the practice squad is going to be as important or more important than ever.
"Being on the practice squad this year, in my mind, is like making the team. Most teams are going to really want to hold onto their guys for their practice squad because they know the system. You have to assume that there's a possibility that those guys will have to be playing any given week. You can bring two guys up each week from your practice squad to actually play."
Harbaugh Wants Big Ten to Play Football
Harbaugh made it clear where he stands on whether the Big Ten should play football or not this year. He joined his brother, Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, in calling for the Big Ten to play. The conference postponed its season Aug. 11 and and that decision has not been changed yet.
"Free the Big Ten," Harbaugh said. "Let's go. Let's go play some football. Let's get Michigan and Ohio State and all those great teams playing. Michigan had zero positive [Covid] tests in August, they're doing a great job of their protocols. Those guys want to play. For anybody who wants to opt out, they can. Their families should have that choice."
Harbaugh said he was proud of the work and safety measures that have been taken to get the NFL season on the verge of beginning.
"We're excited to be playing football," Harbaugh said. "I'm really proud of the league and proud of the players, proud of the union, DeMaurice (Smith) and his people, proud of everybody for doing what it takes to get football."