When the Ravens inserted Bryant McKinnie as the starting left tackle for the playoffs last year, quarterback Joe Flacco went on a remarkable run.
With McKinnie protecting his blind side, Flacco tied an NFL record with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions en route to becoming the Super Bowl XLVII MVP. The Ravens brought back McKinnie this offseason, and his return brings some stability to the offensive line.
Flacco is glad to have McKinnie back keeping him upright, and is also pleased to have a good idea about who the five starting linemen will be.
"The fact that they played so well together last year at the end of the season is definitely a big confidence booster," Flacco said.
McKinnie has been participating in Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and said that he's motivated to play at a high level this season. He's committed to playing at a lower weight and is confident that he'll be the starter from Week 1.
With McKinnie at left tackle, the rest of the offensive line mostly falls into place. The most-likely lineup is Michael Oher at right tackle, Marshal Yanda at right guard, Kelechi Osemele at left guard and either Gino Gradkowski or A.Q. Shipley at center.
It's a well-established line of players who all mostly have starting experience. Gradkowski is the only one of that group who has not previously been a starter.
Going into the season with a clear indication of the starting five is a positive sign for the offense, Flacco said.
"I think every year we've been here we've juggled the offensive line around a pretty good amount," Flacco said. "And at some point or another during the middle of the season or come playoff time or all through preseason and at the beginning of the season we've switched something or just made our starting line."
The Ravens had eight different starters over the course of last season – McKinnie, Oher, Yanda, Osemele, Ramon Harewood, Jah Reid, Matt Birk and Bobbie Williams – and bringing stability to the unit could end up paying dividends to the offense.
"The fact that we have a pretty good feel about who is going to be up there is definitely good for me," Flacco said.