Orlando Brown Jr. is close friends with Ben Powers. In fact, the two offensive linemen were together at Powers' draft party the night Baltimore selected him.
When they played at Oklahoma, Brown and Powers were side by side, punishing defensive linemen and loving every minute of it. Now after the retirement of Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, Powers is expected to compete for the starting job next to his buddy Brown, who made the Pro Bowl in just his second season as a starting right tackle.
Brown is a proven commodity, expected to have a long career as a stellar offensive lineman. But what exactly do the Ravens have in Powers, a fourth-round pick in 2019 who played just one game as a rookie?
According to Brown, Powers is ready to blossom into a potential starter.
"In my opinion, he's never had an issue getting a job or winning a job," Brown said during a Thursday videoconference. "He's always done that throughout his career. He's always been an underdog and underrated, just because of his play style, and I guess you can say his personality. Once he gets his shoulder pads and helmet on, he's a completely different guy. He's going to give you all he's got. He's a workhorse. He's just going to get better throughout the game, he's going to get better throughout the season, throughout his career."
However, Powers won't be the only candidate to step into Yanda's starting role. With nine draft picks next week, the Ravens are expected to select at least one interior offensive lineman. Center/guard Cesar Ruiz of Michigan has been linked to Baltimore in several mock drafts with the 28th pick, and guards Netane Muti of Fresno State, John Simpson of Clemson, and Robert Hunt of Louisiana-Lafayette are potential Day 2 targets. The Ravens could also acquire a veteran offensive lineman before next season.
Whoever the Ravens add won't be Yanda. That will be an adjustment for Brown. Yanda mentored Brown daily, giving him a first-hand look at how a Pro Bowl offensive lineman conducts his business. Brown soaked in the knowledge and admits next season without Yanda will be a huge adjustment.
"It's going to be so different," Brown said. "He's been next to me almost every snap for the past two years. He's helped me grow as a player, he's helped me grow as a person. It's very rare you get someone who's been in the league for 13 years and has been able to play at high level for so long. I didn't take it for granted. Every snap, every opportunity I had to line up with him at a walkthrough, at a practice, game, I tried to give it my all for him. At the end of the day, Marshal's a legend. He's a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I'm going to miss him a lot."
Brown is eager to get back on the field, but he doesn't believe the coronavirus pandemic has deterred his offseason workout routine. He is determined to build off last season, when he became one of the NFL's top right tackles. Brown and Ronnie Stanley give the Ravens two Pro Bowl offensive tackles, and with Yanda's departure, Stanley and Brown will be expected to be even better and take more of a leadership role. Brown sounds up for the challenge, regardless of who plays right guard next to him.
"I've still been able to get really good work in, fortunately," Brown said. "My trainer's right down the road. I've got some stuff here at my place in a pretty big neighborhood, so I've been able to get it in.
"Baltimore knew about the kind of guy they were getting. I'm not even close to being where I want to be yet. Hopefully one day when I'm able to make consecutive All-Pros and consecutive Pro Bowls and we're winning Super Bowls, that's really where I think I'll be a little more comfortable, (but) not necessarily satisfied."