Ravens offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie raised eyebrows -- well, he at least raised mine -- last week when he said that his goal for the season is to be “the best left tackle in the league.”
"When people turn on film, they’ll just see that I’m dominating, and I just feel that I’m going to do better than everybody else this year," the 6-foot-8, 350-plus-pounder said after Thursday’s minicamp workout.
While there is nothing wrong with that mindset -- shoot for the stars, big man -- I think Pro Bowl left tackles like Joe Thomas, Duane Brown, Ryan Clady and Joe Staley might have something to say about that this season.
That’s OK, though. The Ravens don’t need McKinnie to dominate for their offensive line to be better in 2013 than it was in 2012.
During the regular season, with McKinnie chained to the bench because of poor performance in practice, the Ravens’ offensive line allowed starting quarterback Joe Flacco to be sacked 35 times.
As for the Super Bowl run, you know the narrative by now. McKinnie started at left tackle during the playoffs, the offensive line protected Flacco better (six sacks in four games) and Flacco went off.
But outside of the wild-card win over the Indianapolis Colts, McKinnie was pretty much average in the playoffs. He was beaten for a sack in the AFC championship game and another in the Super Bowl win, allowing seven total pressures in those two games, according to Pro Football Focus.
Plus, Pro Bowl back Ray Rice and the Ravens averaged 4.3 yards per carry in the regular season but just 3.9 in the postseason.
But what playoffs proved was that even if McKinnie’s inclusion in the starting lineup doesn’t significantly improve the left tackle position, it greatly improves two others on the offensive line.
Michael Oher wasn't as much of a liability in pass protection when he started at right tackle. And rookie Kelechi Osemele played at a Pro Bowl level once the Ravens moved him inside to left guard.
The question remains: Can the Ravens count on McKinnie again?
As of this writing, McKinnie is in shape (so far, so good), he feels fresh (he claims he feels like he is 26, not 33) and he sounds motivated to play hard (he certainly said all the right things Thursday).
We’ll see if McKinnie still checks off all those boxes in late August -- and more importantly, in late December and early January.
He doesn’t have to be the best tackle in the league. If McKinnie can simply be reliable, the Ravens will be better because of it.