When the Ravens acquired left offensive tackle Eugene Monroe through a trade from the Jacksonville Jaguars last October in exchange for fourth-round and fifth-round draft picks, he began an accelerated crash course into the playbook.
It wasn't always the smoothest initial transition for Monroe as he changed teams midway through the season even though he later became the highest-graded blocker on the offensive line.
Since signing a $37.5 million contract that included an $11 million signing bonus with a total of $19 million guaranteed in March to remain with the Ravens, Monroe has had the benefit of a full offseason. That's given him valuable time to absorb the new playbook being installed by offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and time to work alongside left offensive guard Kelechi Osemele as he returns from back surgery.
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“It’s definitely a good situation to be here the entire offseason, knowing who you’re going to play with and getting better together," Monroe said this spring. "It has been fun; I’ve been enjoying it.”
Last season, Monroe and Osemele only started two games together prior to Osemele being unable to play anymore games due to a herniated disk that required surgery in November.
The Ravens envision a strong tandem forming between Monroe and Osemele.
"The left side of the offensive line, those guys, they're looking very good and they've been working really hard," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "If you see these guys on their own, you see these guys early, late, you're probably going to see those two guys in the weight room or the meeting room working, and they've done a great job."
Since a disappointing season where quarterback Joe Flacco was sacked a career-high 48 times and the team finished with the NFL's 30th-ranked running game, the Ravens retained Monroe, traded for new starting center Jeremy Zuttah and have been auditioning Rick Wagner as the projected new starting right offensive tackle since Michael Oher left to sign a $20 million contract with the Tennessee Titans.
The chemistry between Osemele and Monroe could allow the Ravens to upgrade the play of the offensive line this season.
"I always felt like we gelled, even last year," Osemele said. "Before I had the surgery I felt like we gelled well. He does a good job of communicating early, trying to get on the same page. As long as he keeps doing that, we’re not going to have a problem this year. He’s really good about being a professional.”
The return of Osemele shapes up as of the biggest factors in the Ravens' offensive success.
"He hasn’t dropped a beat," Monroe said. "He’s back to his usual self, running around, one of the best-conditioned guys on the field, just grinding and trying to get better. We are even having to slow him down a little bit because it has been a while since he played, and we have certain rules we have to follow right now. We’re just working together every day. I’m glad he’s right next to me, I really am."
At 6-foot-5, 306 pounds, Monroe is known for his athleticism and ability to block downfield.
That should make him well-suited for Kubiak's system.
"This offense is similar to what I have done before," Monroe said. "I’m an athlete, so regardless of what I’m asked to do, I’ll be able to get it done."