A year ago, Tyre Phillips could not have imagined being the successor to Marshal Yanda as the Ravens' starting right guard. Phillips didn't even play guard at Mississippi State. He was the starting left tackle for the Bulldogs, but when the Ravens drafted Phillips in the third round, they thought he had the versatility to switch positions.
Phillips won the training camp competition and was rewarded with his first NFL start Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. Head Coach John Harbaugh saw the game live, and now he has evaluated the game tape on Phillips. The coach is excited about Phillips, not only for this season but for the future.
"To start on the offensive line as a rookie at a position that you didn't play in college, it's pretty remarkable," Harbaugh said. "He's got a long way to go, he can improve so much. But I look at that as a real positive. He's only going to get better. He's really smart, he's really a detail-oriented person. He's the kind of guy that once he's experienced it, he corrects it. He's going to learn from every single snap that he takes. He had a few things, but he cleaned them up right away. He's a heck of an athlete, really strong guy. He had a good game."
With Yanda retired and Phillips starting as a rookie, center Matt Skura is the oldest starter on the offensive line and he's only 27. The unit is young and physical, with a Pro Bowler on each side in left tackle Ronnie Stanley and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
The Ravens had a record-setting rushing attack last year, and their offensive line was a key to making it go. A player as good as Yanda is nearly impossible to replace, but in Phillips, the Ravens have another talented lineman who they are excited to watch develop.
Ronnie Stanley Expected to Practice Wednesday
The Ravens were encouraged Sunday that Stanley's ankle injury did not appear to be serious, and nothing about that changed Monday. Stanley left Sunday's game during the third quarter and did not return in the blowout. He was replaced by veteran D.J. Fluker.
Harbaugh expects to see Stanley on the field Wednesday when the team resumes practice.
"I haven't been told anything serious," Harbaugh said. "They're working on him down in the training room. I'd say Wednesday we'll have a pretty good idea, but again, I expect him to be out there practicing Wednesday. That's my expectation at this point."
Derek Wolfe Solid in Ravens Debut
Defensive end Calais Campbell was awarded a game ball on Sunday and played well in his Ravens debut. However, Baltimore's other key defensive line addition should not be overlooked.
Derek Wolfe finished with three tackles and two quarterback hits and made it difficult for Cleveland to do business whenever they tried to run his way. Wolfe thought the Ravens were going to draft him out of Cincinnati in 2012, and when he signed with the Ravens this offseason, he said it felt like coming home. That's exactly how Wolfe played, looking totally comfortable in the defense.
"He made plays for sure," Harbaugh said. "We even dropped him into coverage. He had a PB (pass breakup) dropping into coverage. It wasn't just batted balls. He had two of those, too. He played really well, he's a force in there. Brandon Williams was a force, especially in the second half. They helped the young linebackers. Jelly (Justin Ellis) did a great job. He was really physical when he played nose guard. Broderick (Washington) did a nice job, young guy, got his sea legs a little bit. I was really happy with all the guys in there on the D-line."
Inside Linebacker Rotation Looks Strong
Baltimore placed emphasis on the inside linebacker position during the draft, taking Patrick Queen in the first round and Malik Harrison in the third. Both rookies started and played well, with Queen leading the team with eight tackles, a sack and forced fumble, and Harrison notching four tackles and deflecting a pass that almost led to an interception. There was nothing tentative about the way either Queen or Harrison played.
"I thought both those two guys pretty really good football, especially for their first time," Harbaugh said. "Good starts for those guys. They'll be things they can learn from."
Having veteran inside linebacker L.J. Fort gives the Ravens another playmaker at inside linebacker and a voice who can mentor the rookies. Fort helped blow up a fake punt by the Browns in the first quarter when he diagnosed the play and forced a fumble.
Harbaugh believes Fort's presence will help the rookie linebackers develop even faster."
"That gives you a foundation to work those young guys in, to not put them in positions where they have to do more than you'd want to ask them to do," Harbaugh said. "Chris Board played a good game on defense too, He had some good snaps for us. We're going to rotate those backers pretty much all year. That's kind of our personality. It's a good situation to have."