One of the uncertainties facing the Baltimore Ravens as they work through OTA’s and prepare for training camp is the position of right tackle.
Most observers would concur that the team’s offensive front is 80% complete and that the right side is the unanimous choice as the offense’s weakest link.
Some have debated the merits of Kelechi Osemele moving out to right tackle and allow Ryan Jensen and John Urschel to battle it out for the left guard job. But based upon the enthusiasm amongst the coaching staff during OTA’s generated by the paired up tandem of Osemele and Eugene Monroe, it seems that the team’s preference is to build a dominant left side.
And Osemele appears to concur.
When asked if he has a preference playing guard or tackle the physically imposing guard left no doubt.
“Left guard because of the ridiculous amount of reps that we have at practice every day. That’s muscle memory, so that’s what I’m comfortable with.”
Yet he added, “Obviously getting the best five out there is what we’re going to do.”
When building an offensive line, it’s sometimes not all about having the best player by position but instead the best and most complementary combination of players. We witnessed that during the Ravens’ historic run through the playoffs in 2012.
Yet the question remains, “Who will play right tackle?”
At this point the Ravens have nothing to lose by allowing Rick Wagner and Jensen to square off. Both have reconfigured their bodies and look stronger. And if the left side becomes as dominant as the coaches seem to think, opposing defenses may be forced to counterattack by rolling reinforcements that way, effectively lightening the challenges on the right side.
But the possibility exists that it could still fail.
The team would then look to acquire a training camp casualty from another team or they could make a trade.
Pro personnel execs Vince Newsome and George Kokinis have already scoured league rosters to project players that may become available. Yet the name that continues to surface and with good reason is that of Eric Winston.
Winston is available and familiar with offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s offense. He understands the blocking schemes and he had his best seasons as a member of the Houston Texans.
During his final season with Kubiak (2011) Winston graded out at the 10th best overall tackle according to Pro Football Focus. Yet he wasn’t re-signed by the Texans and moved on to Kansas City in 2012 and to the Arizona Cardinals in 2013 where he ranked 26th and 69th respectively amongst NFL tackles.
Has the 30-year-old, 8-year vet hit the backend downward slide of his career?
Will he be as focused now that he’s the NFLPA President?
Is his attention more on his post playing career?
Could he be hanging around for another year or two for the money only?
And might he become a divisive force in the locker room with a staunch pro-union stance?
All legitimate questions that the Ravens need to get comfortable with. The fact that he isn’t yet a Raven is proof that they are NOT comfortable. Money isn’t yet the issue. According to one source the team hasn’t even broached that subject with Winston.
Another sourced hinted that signing Winston would amount to a reluctant concession – a signing they would welcome with trepidation.
As they so often do, the Ravens will exhibit patience and let this play out.
If neither Wagner nor Jensen is the answer and Jah Reid doesn’t have an epiphany that changes his life and career, the Ravens will address the position.
And it’s unlikely to be the guy that the NFLPA calls Mr. President.
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