With the current limit for NFL rosters set at 90, this time of year allows teams to take chances on players who normally wouldn’t get a shot when the roster limit is lowered, hoping to find a diamond in the rough before training camp.
For the Ravens, one of their recent signings, left guard Will Rackley, appears to be a “he isn’t good, but we’ll bring him in and see if we can turn things around” move.
Normally a player of Rackley’s caliber – a castoff of the Jacksonville Jaguars after three seasons – wouldn’t even be worth breaking down, but since some, including members of the Baltimore media have speculated whether or not Rackley could battle for a starting job, we decided to put together your one-stop shop for all things Will Rackley.
Here’s the good: he’s still only 25, and started 25 games over three years (was on injured reserved in 2012) with the Jaguars.
OK, here’s the bad (everything else):
Take even just 10 minutes of your time and it isn’t too hard to understand why the Jaguars moved on from Rackley so quickly. He was a third-round pick in the 2011 draft, but take that with a grain of salt regarding his ability, seeing as former Jaguars GM Gene Smith selected him.
While Rackley is an experienced player, it appears that he was the starter in Jacksonville by default, and not because of his ability.
Rackley is an unnatural mover with spotty mechanics and field awareness.
Take this simple screen play for example.
He receives a free release which gives him a prime opportunity to get upfield and make a block for his running back, the pass catcher on the play.
Rackley is the only downfield blocker in the vicinity of the ball carrier, and his one-on-one opportunity with the cornerback gives him a good chance to give his teammate an easy pathway to at least a 20-yard gain.
Rackley fails to execute a seek-and-destroy mentality, instead slowing down and becoming indecisive when approaching defender, holding up the running back and ruining the flow of the play.
The end result is the ball carrier running into Rackley and eventually getting tackled by the man Rackley failed to seal off.
This is a simple play that shouldn’t be too difficult for an NFL offensive lineman, but Rackley made it look much harder than it needed to be, ultimately preventing his team from a big play.
As a run blocker, Rackley doesn’t provide much more reassurance that he can be a reliable player. When blocking defensive linemen, he often simply doesn’t have the functional strength to hold a block long enough for the ball carrier to run past him.
Here, Rackley pulls from left guard to the right side, engaging with a defender on the side of the run play.
He gets a good initial grab of the defender, and with enough strength and leverage, he’d be able to hold on long enough for the ball carrier to bounce to the outside.
Instead the defender grabs Rackley and rips him aside, throwing the blocker off balance and out of the way as the run play comes toward his side.
By the time the ball carrier reaches the right side of the line, Rackley has a mouth full of dirt as the defender he was initially blocking tackles the running back for no gain.
Examining his pass blocking doesn’t provide any more positives for Rackley.
His lack of strength as a run blocker is just as evident as when Rackley has one-on-one blocking assignment in pass protection.
He typically struggles against defensive linemen and linebackers, who are often simply too strong for Rackley to get enough leverage on to give his quarterback a clean pocket.
But how about a safety?
Against the Oakland Raiders, Tyvon Branch – a player Rackley has about 100 pounds on – comes right at the left guard on a blitz.
With no fellow linemen or other defenders in his area, Rackley has an easy opportunity to fend off an undersized opponent.
Branch’s initial punch as he throws his body into Rackley head on throws the blocker off balance, and suddenly Branch has the leverage on the play as Rackley is caught with his weight leaning back.
To prevent Branch from getting an easy sack on quarterback Chad Henne, Rackley has to tackle Branch to the ground, drawing a penalty and leaving Branch with a fractured fibula.
The fact that Rackley’s only way of preventing a sack was to illegally tackle Branch to the ground and end the defender’s season isn’t a good sign.
There are plenty of other instances to show, but I’ll save your time and leave it at this.
Any speculation that Rackley could be good enough at left guard to move Kelechi Osemele back to right tackle is absurd.
Unless it all clicks for Rackley by September, don’t get your hopes up that he will even make the roster, as the Ravens already have a fairly crowded situation at all three interior offensive line positions.
It’s only May, so it can’t hurt to bring in a young and experienced player like Rackley, but don’t be surprised if his stay in Baltimore is short-lived.