Saturday, November 2, 2013
Ravens believe offensive line is better
By Jamison Hensley
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens' only lineup change coming out of the bye is replacing injured offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele with A.Q. Shipley.
On paper, it looks like a downgrade. Osemele is a second-round pick from a year ago, and Shipley is on his third team since being a seventh-round pick in 2009.
It doesn't look good for the Ravens on the eye test, either. Osemele is a powerful 6-foot-5, 330 pounds. Shipley resembles a bouncer at a bar at 6-1, 305 pounds.
Still, it's hard to overlook what coach John Harbaugh said Friday when announcing Osemele was likely done for the season.
"I'm excited to see how [the offensive linemen] play going forward," he said. "We'll actually be better there with a healthier player."
Harbaugh isn't putting a positive spin on this development. You could see he actually believes this. Osemele is clearly the best option when he wants to be out there. But you got the sense that he wasn't mentally committed to playing anymore.
Heading into the bye, Osemele told reporters, "They feel like I'm the best chance to win games at my position. So, I'm going to deal with it."
This sounded like a player being told to play, not one wanting to play. There are no such questions with Shipley, a blue-collar journeyman. He was pressed into the starting lineup for Osemele four weeks ago in Miami, where the Ravens had their best rushing game (133 yards) of the season.
"He’s definitely proven we can win with him and he can play," right guard Marshal Yanda said.
The Ravens are going with Shipley for now, but there's no guarantee he'll remain the starter. Harbaugh mentioned Jah Reid "will be in the mix." There's been questions whether Reid, a third-round pick in 2011, has the toughness to be a starter in the NFL.
There's going to be a transition period with Shipley, whose natural position is center. He has never started a game at guard in the NFL. His teammates are going to help him as much as possible.
"You have to communicate a little more with the cadence and the calls when we’re running the checks," Yanda said. "You don’t want him to be mentally thinking about the play too much instead of just coming off the ball."
It's been quite a change for the Ravens' offensive line. For the first five games this season, the left side of Baltimore's offensive line was Osemele and tackle Bryant McKinnie. Now, the Ravens are going forward with Shipley and tackle Eugene Monroe.
"That's the thing -- you want your guys at 100 percent," Harbaugh said. "A.Q. has played very well when he's been in there. He's a football player."
Whether this change is for the better remains to be seen.