Offensive Line Carousel Can Be Good And Bad


The Ravens offensive line has been a carousel during training camp.

Matt Birk, Michael Oher, Marshal Yanda, Kelechi Osemele, Bobbie Williams, Bryant McKinnie, Gino Gradkowski and Jack Cornell have all taken reps as part of the first-team unit, and after two preseason games the group is still a work in progress.

Adjusting to different players has made it difficult to get comfortable as a group, but Birk sees the rotating as part of the training camp process.

"It's a challenge because everybody is different and you have to get a different feel for the guys that are next to you," Birk said. "But at the same time, too, you just accept that that's part of the deal. I think that we're fortunate. This is deepest group of offensive linemen that we've had since I've been here."

The only certainty right now – barring injuries – is Birk at center and Yanda at right guard. Every other position along the line is somewhat in transition. 

The biggest piece of the equation is whether McKinnie starts at left tackle, where he played all of last season. If McKinnie starts on the left side, then Oher will slide over to right tackle and Osemele will compete with Williams for the starting left guard spot. If Oher starts at left tackle, then Osemele will likely play right tackle with Williams at left guard.

"We've tried a number of different combinations," Birk said. "We don't exactly know how it's going to all shake out – who and where. As a player, it's your job to go out there and do your job."

In last week's preseason game against Detroit, the starters were Oher, Williams, Birk, Yanda and Osemele. McKinnie worked with the second team and played into the second half.

The first team played much better than in the preseason opener against Atlanta, where communication was clearly an issue with picking up some of the blitzes. Part of the progress was getting Birk back at center to anchor the line after he missed the opener because of back spasms. 

Quarterback Joe Flacco saw improvement in the group and only got hit once during his three series in the game. Flacco said that he sees some positives with so many players getting a chance to work with the first team, but admitted that he would like to see some consistency up front as the regular season nears.

"You want to get to a point where there's some continuity between those guys, and they can really play together and be in sync, because that is the most important position on the field as a whole, and those guys need to kind of play off each other and get comfortable with each other," Flacco said.

"It's good in respect that you find out who's going to be a player for you, and a lot of guys get quality reps that they wouldn't be getting on the practice field. But there comes a point where you need to get all those guys out there and get them comfortable with each other."

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