The Baltimore Ravens’ offensive line took a major step back in 2021 after injuries took a toll on the entire unit. With that being said, who do you think stands out as the best man for the left guard job?
All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley missed much of the season due to an ankle injury while others such as Tyre Phillips were in and out with other nagging ailments. While each member of the group received solid grades overall, there seemed to be a lack of consistency felt amongst the group with the constant changes.
This year, the team looks to get Stanley back on the field full-time now, and with the addition of Morgan Moses to bolster the right side, the team hopes to have a bit more stability in that regard. The Baltimore Ravens will also have guard Kevin Zeitler for another year while rookie Tyler Linderbaum looks to take over duties at center for the departed Bradley Bozeman. Despite all of the changes, the left side of the interior doesn’t appear to have the same certainty.
As of now, who will start at left guard for the Baltimore Ravens is still up in the air and may be an instance of trial and error as the team progresses through training camp. The Baltimore Ravens didn’t address guard during the 2022 NFL Draft and instead seem to have an open competition with the talent they possess in-house. General Manager Eric DeCosta has spent plenty of capital on the interior offensive line within the last three years and it seems time for those picks to mature into starters.
The players who will be competing for left guard include the aforementioned Phillips, 2021 third-round pick Ben Cleveland, 2019 fourth-round pick Ben Powers and 2019 undrafted free-agent Patrick Mekari. Below, we’ll examine each player and what chances they have to become the 2022 starter in order from best to least chances.
Mekari has been one of the better finds by the Baltimore Ravens, having become a reliable swing tackle with plenty of starting experience under his belt. He showed stability in 2019 when he stepped in for the injured Matt Skura in the middle of their playoff run. Mekari has been a dedicated team player who now has his best chance to start.
The 2021 season was a solid outing for the former Cal Bear, finishing the year with a 66.1 score through Pro Football Focus, with his pass blocking grades at 73.1. Mekari is the tried and true 25-year-old veteran who is by far the safest option for the Baltimore Ravens.
Phillips was a bit of a surprise pick for many Baltimore Ravens back in 2020 but defied expectations by being a week one starter for the team at right guard. He had his ups and downs throughout the season while also struggling to stay healthy. He would move in and out of the starting lineup that year while in 2021 he was used sparingly with only five starts but continued to struggle with injuries.
According to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, Phillips was not only named as a roster lock, but he also has one of the better shots at winning the starting gig at left guard. Phillip didn’t grade out very well in 2021 however he has always been a talented player who just has to stay healthy if he wants to hit his ceiling.
Similar to Phillips, Ben Cleveland was somewhat of a surprise pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Media evaluators like myself viewed Cleveland as an early Day Three player who could blossom into a potential starter. Despite dealing with a knee injury for much of this past season, Cleveland managed to start in four games for the Baltimore Ravens but finished the year with adequate grades.
Cleveland was considered by Zrebiec to be one of the stock-down players during the early off-season practices. He has struggled to stay healthy but wasn’t afforded the same opportunities during minicamp as Phillips and Powers. Zrebiec believes that Cleveland is unlikely to be cut before the season, however, if struggles to improve his play in practice he could find himself out of a job.
Powers is tied with Mekari as the most tenured player out of this selection however he is the less experienced starter out of the two. Powers started in 12 games in 2021 for the Baltimore Ravens and was an adequate player overall as a full-time starter.
Despite this, Zrebiec notes that he is also a potential roster bubble player who may be traded away if he is outperformed in training camp. Powers, along with fellow fourth-round pick in running back Justice Hill, are the last of the Baltimore Ravens’ 2019 NFL Draft class.