For the past three games, rookie right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. has been filling in for injured right tackle James Hurst. Now Brown may not give the job back.
Brown has excelled in his three starts, including in Sunday's loss to the Steelers, in which he didn't give up even a single quarterback hurry versus one of the league's sack leaders in T.J. Watt.
Per Pro Football Focus, Brown was the Ravens' highest-graded offensive player against the Steelers. According to the website, Brown hasn't yielded a sack in the three games and given up just eight hurries.
Head Coach John Harbaugh expects Hurst to be healthy when they return from this week's bye, but Brown could remain the starter at right tackle.
"I mean, it's competition," Harbaugh said. "By virtue of the circumstance, I think [Brown has] wedged his way into that conversation. That's a good thing for us."
When Alex Lewis suffered a neck injury in Tennessee, the Ravens could have shifted Hurst to left guard with Brown at right tackle. Hurst started all 16 games at left guard last season. However, Lewis returned to face the Steelers and the Ravens suddenly have three starters for two spots.
If Hurst isn't reinstalled at right tackle, does he bump Lewis at left guard? Or does he become the Ravens' sixth, versatile lineman?
"The fact that you have one more piece into the puzzle, so to speak, kind of bolsters all the other pieces," Harbaugh said. "So I think that's going to be fun to watch."
Brown has proven he's up for the task of playing an aggressive – and most importantly – still effective brand of football. When Brown Jr. body slammed Watt at the end of one block Sunday, it was like watching his dad, Zeus Sr., play back in the day.
"I was just trying to set the tone for whenever I'm out there and he's out there," Brown said. "He's a great player, [but] I don't back down from any fights. He's a guy who is really good at what he does. I want to be one of the greats, and it basically starts by dominating guys like that."
Brown made his first of what will likely be many starts in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, and he liked it a lot.
"I just think it was a little more physical than most," Brown said. "It was very physical and a lot of fun."
Brown has made great strides since being a third-round pick who NFL talent evaluators clearly had questions about after his poor showing at the Combine. He's dedicated himself in the weight room and Harbaugh said his footwork has improved every week.
The edge that Brown plays with, which was evident on the Oklahoma tape, has clearly transferred to the NFL level.
"This guy, there's a lot to be written on his ledger going forward, and we just have to keep working on the fundamentals," Harbaugh said. "He has talent, and he has toughness. He has a real mentality about him – a real right-tackle mentality. He's like his dad, and that's the greatest compliment that I or anybody else could give him."