Wed, 20 Jan 2021

Ravens Offensive Line Faces More Changes and Challenges

Baltimore Ravens
28 Nov 2020, 04:25 GMT+10

Clifton Brown

In a week filled with challenges, the Ravens' offensive line faces a huge one.

Both players who have started at center the past two seasons are on the Reserve/COVID-19 list - Patrick Mekari and Matt Skura.

That leaves undrafted rookie center Trystan Colon-Castillo, who has not played in an NFL game yet, as the only true center on the Ravens' 53-man roster currently. Starting left guard Bradley Bozeman can also play center.

Meanwhile, starting right guard Tyre Phillips (ankle) has missed the last three games and has been listed as limited participant on this week's injury report.

Baltimore has already started five different offensive line combinations this season and endured a season-ending ankle injury to All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley in Week 8.

Facing the Steelers (10-0) is a difficult task for any offensive line under any circumstances. Pittsburgh has allowed the fewest points in the league this season (17.4 per game) and racked up the most sacks (38) with a front seven led by outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree and defensive linemen Cameron Hayward, Stephon Tuitt and Tyson Alualu. Watt (nine sacks), Dupree (eight) and Tuitt (seven) are all among the league's top 10 in sacks. Pittsburgh also leads the league in takeaways with 21.

The Steelers are coming off a dominant 27-3 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Jacksonville Head Coach Doug Marrone made his thoughts clear about Pittsburgh's front seven.

"No disrespect to anyone I've played before, but this is probably the best front seven that I've faced and they've lost a heck of a linebacker in (Devin) Bush who was playing really well," Marrone said via bigcatcountry.com.

The Ravens' COVID-19 outbreak has interrupted preparation this week, and cohesiveness is key for any offensive line. That presents still another obstacle for the Ravens, who will attempt to work well together Sunday despite limited practice time this week.

How the Ravens will line up Sunday remains to be seen. The two constants since Stanley's injury have been Orlando Brown Jr. at left tackle and Bozeman at left guard. Ben Powers made the first start of his career Sunday at right guard against the Tennessee Titans, while D.J. Fluker and Will Holden shared snaps at right tackle.

Head Coach John Harbaugh liked what he saw from Powers against Tennessee, and he could start again if Phillips isn't ready to return.

"He's a fighter, he moved his feet well, he's a good athlete, he had a lot of good blocks, and (he's) a tenacious guy," Harbaugh said. "He was going against two good [defensive] tackles. Those guys are very physical players, and I thought he held his own quite well. I'm sure there are plays he can do better in, too, but it was a good start for Ben."

Colon-Castillo was a three-year starter at center for Missouri, but he has yet to play a snap this season.

Fourth-round draft choice Ben Bredeson has also taken practice reps at center. But if the Ravens opt for more experience at center and slide Bozeman over from left guard, Bredeson could step in at left guard, where he started 46 games during college at Michigan. Starting for the Ravens would still be a new experience for Bredeson, who has played just five offensive snaps this year.

For depth, Baltimore could call up R.J. Prince from the practice squad to provide more offensive line depth, and the Ravens claimed veteran offensive tackle Jake Rodgers off waivers Wednesday. Rodgers spent time on Baltimore's practice squad in 2018 and has recent NFL experience at tackle, playing 51 snaps Week 9 for the Broncos.

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