Mike Preston’s Ravens observations on a versatile offensive line, rookies getting in shape, a Kyle Hamilton comparison and more | COMMENTARY

The Ravens have a lot of flexibility on the offensive line, but it’s hard to determine how good this group can be.

The Ravens have so far had three weeks of voluntary practice and a few days of mandatory minicamp, so it’s a good time to experiment.

They have shuffled a lot of players around, which allows them to be creative in case of injuries. On Tuesday, Ja’Wuan James started at left tackle with Morgan Moses on the right side. A day later, they flipped positions and played reasonably well.

The new tandem is more athletic than last year’s starter Alejandro Villanueva, who struggled with speed rushers.

The Ravens also have to settle on a starting guard combination. Kevin Zeitler can be penciled in at right guard, but both Tyre Phillips and Ben Powers have started on the left side with Ben Cleveland as a third option.

Rookie Tyler Linderbaum, the second of two first-round draft picks in April, has been starting at center, but the team has ample replacements in Patrick Mekari and Trystan Colon.

Regardless, this appears to be a hard-working group. Run blocking is expected to be their forte once again, but they are already better pass blockers than they were a year ago. The Ravens allowed a team-record 57 sacks last season.

Now, if Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley can return healthy from an ankle injury he suffered nearly a year and a half ago, this line has potential. Quarterback Lamar Jackson might become one of the happiest people in Baltimore.

Rookies not ready yet

It’s puzzling why rookies show up to these minicamps out of shape.

In some cases, they still have one semester of school left, so they can’t work out like pro players. But a lot of these rookies leave school early so they can train for the NFL scouting combine, their school’s pro day and offseason activities.

Two of the Ravens’ top rookies need to report in better shape when training camp opens in late July.

Daniel Faalele, the 6-foot-8, 380-pound offensive tackle out of Minnesota who was drafted in the fourth round, struggled through practice again Wednesday.

Not only was he slow and methodical, but he indicated when the Ravens were going to pass or run. When he carried a “light stick,” or leaned back in his stance, it was a pass.

Faalele can be labeled a project, much like outside linebacker Odafe Oweh was last year, but Oweh had much more skill and a stronger motor as a rookie.

Rookie Travis Jones, the 6-4, 327-pound defensive tackle selected in the third round out of Connecticut, has also struggled with conditioning.

With Michael Pierce out for a “personal matter” and the Ravens reaching a contract settlement with injured veteran Derek Wolfe, Jones started Wednesday, but he was clearly tired early in the 2 1/2-hour practice.

Fortunately, both Jones and Faalele will get about six weeks to improve their conditioning for training camp, which should be more than enough time.

Twice as nice

The Ravens are doing some neat little things with this two-tight end offense, especially with the combination …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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