Yanda Trading Places


Marshal Yanda came out of Iowa last year projecting as a guard at the next level. He went on to start 12 games at right tackle for the Ravens.

Now, the versatile lineman is taking reps at center.

The Ravens are not only looking to find a suitable replacement for departed center Mike Flynn, who was released in February, but depth is also a concern.

After the first mandatory minicamp in Owings Mills, it seems that the Ravens are considering Chris Chester and Jason Brown for the first team, while the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Yanda could be a pivotal backup.

Of course, the second-year player must first get used to a position he hasn't played since his freshman year of high school.

"That was the last time I snapped a ball," he said after Sunday's practice. "After doing that for a few games, I moved to tackle and played there ever since."

Yet there was big No. 73 all weekend, working alongside Chester, Brown and rookie free agent Adam Kraus, snapping the football to one of four red-shirted quarterbacks in pre-practice warm-ups. There was Yanda marking the huddle and then calling out the defensive fronts.

It was all unfamiliar territory for the former third-round draft pick, who also saw time at guard during the camp.

"I'm more comfortable playing tackle just because I've been there, but I'm learning guard and center a little bit," he explained. "Chris Chester has been helping me out with the calls, so that's been helpful. I'll get better at guard and center day by day."

Center has been the most challenging for Yanda, especially against a Ravens defense that uses multiple looks designed specifically to confuse the opposition.

"The biggest thing is making the line calls and recognizing the right front," Yanda stated. "With our defense, those guys move around a lot, so it's hard to track everybody and remember what each protection has.

"You definitely have to think a lot more out there. Center's a tough job."

The Ravens tested multiple offensive lines throughout the camp. With Brown at center, Yanda has moved to guard with Mike Kracalik playing right tackle. Chester has played center when Yanda stayed at right tackle, Brown moved to right guard and Ben Grubbs flipped from his typical position to left guard.

Such shuffling is all part of a plan to evaluate exactly what the Ravens have on the roster, led by head coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

"It's definitely part of it, in terms of seeing what guys can do," Harbaugh said. "And it's showing Cam what these guys can do as a play-caller. If Cam can see this guy pulls better on the left side than the right side, or if a guy has a better reach block on the left side, then that can help his play-calling down the road."

According to Harbaugh, it will be up to the players to decide how the positions shake out.

"I don't think we've made that determination," said the coach. "They determine who the best guys are."

New Additions?

The Ravens' coaching team looked more like mad scientists at times over the weekend, giving several defenders a shot on offense.

During one goal line drill, 345-pound Haloti Ngata lined up at fullback, but fumbled a handoff as he primed to blow up the end zone. He had considerably better ball control during his high school days as a talented rugby player.

Defensive tackle Kelly Gregg was a tight end briefly, screaming out, "Come on, throw the ball to me!" before getting in his stance.

Linebackers Edgar Jones and Jarret Johnson also saw action at tight end.

But would Jones want to face Ngata if he was on the opposite side of the ball?

"Not a chance," said Jones with a laugh. "You'd just better give up if you see that guy in the backfield."

Harbaugh could only smile after Sunday's practice when asked about the roster juggling.

"We're excited about putting some defensive guys on offense and some offensive guys on defense occasionally," he said. "We'll try to use their talents. Plus, it's fun."

'No Big Revelations'

After three days with the entire team on campus, Harbaugh was happy with the team's progress, but was cautious to make any groundbreaking announcements of his squad.

"I don't think there are any revelations," he said. "They like football, they were excited to be a part of it, they like each other - I think all that's been confirmed."

The Ravens' rookies will return to Owings Mills May 20-22 for a mandatory rookie camp.

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