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Baltimore Ravens: Breaking Down the Competition at Left Guard

June 23, 2019 - 11:01 pm
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By Joe Schiller

With just over one month until the start of training camp for the Baltimore Ravens, there are many position battles to keep an eye on. But none might be harder to decipher than the competition at left guard.

You could make a case the rest of the offensive line is figured out. Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr. headline the tackle spots, Marshal Yanda returns at guard, and Matt Skura remains at center.

However, left guard was a revolving door last season, and it remains undetermined following the Ravens’ offseason program.

I’m here to break down what we currently know and give my opinion on how things could shape out heading into training camp.

 

The Front-Runners: James Hurst and Jermaine Eluemunor

John Harbaugh told reporters during the team’s final mandatory minicamp practice that there’s no clear leader, but based on what’s been reported, James Hurst and Jermaine Eluemunor are the top candidates.

After signing a four-year extension during the offseason, Hurst played in ten games last season but missed time dealing with a nerve issue in his back. He’s the Ravens’ most versatile lineman, giving O-Line coach Joe D’Alessandris options. Hurst has typically fared better at guard than tackle.

The biggest question mark for Hurst will be his health. He hadn’t missed a game in his professional career leading up to last season, but any previous back issues are always concerning given the physicality in the trenches.

Eluemunor’s name in this category might surprise some, but he reportedly got the most reps with the first-team offense during mandatory minicamp, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec.

Eluemunor has had an up-and-down tenure in Baltimore. He was released and signed onto the practice squad before the start of the 2018 regular season. In October, he was promoted to the active roster.

Eluemunor was thrown into the fire as a rookie fifth-round pick in 2017 and filled in at tackle in spurts last season. With Stanley and Brown healthy, I’ll be interested to see if Eluemunor can hold up at a full-time role at guard.

 

The Dark Horse: Ben Powers

I wouldn’t put it past the Ravens to start a rookie offensive lineman Week 1. Brown started ten games at right tackle last season, and Powers could be the next Sooner to see starting time during his rookie season.

There is a certain comfortability in this, given the Ravens’ track record finding offensive line talent in the middle rounds of the draft. I didn’t attend any practices, and it’s tough to determine how Powers will project solely based on his college film. The NFL is an entirely different animal.

We should have a better idea about Powers in training camp. The player, who said he loves taking a grown man’s dreams and crushing them, will have a chance to show off his physicality once the pads come on.

 

The X-Factor: Alex Lewis

Undoubtedly, the biggest question mark in this competition is Alex Lewis. We might not be having this entire conversation if Lewis started all 16 games last season, but he suffered a scary neck injury during the team’s Week 6 win over the Titans and underwent offseason shoulder surgery.

Zrebiec reported that Lewis could be back by the start of training camp. Lewis missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum. He’s performed well in spurts, but it’s hard to put him in the “front-runner” category when he hasn’t played in a full season in three years.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lewis pushed to become the starter, but at this point, his first step is returning to the field.

 

The Rest: Randin Crecelius, Patrick Mekari, R.J. Prince, Patrick Vahe

The remaining competition consists of two undrafted rookies and two second-year backups. They’ll be fighting to make the 53-man roster in September, but the Ravens always seem to find gems on the O-Line. Two of the names mentioned earlier, Hurst and Eluemunor, entered the league as a fifth-round pick and an undrafted rookie. Not to mention, Skura also went undrafted.

Vahe was a four-year starter at Texas before coming to Baltimore, and Mekari ranked as one of the top draft-eligible tackles in pass-blocking efficiency, according to Pro Football Focus.

Never count out a player from this group.