Preston: It will take time to build chemistry on offensive line and to learn about Ronnie Stanley

Ravens 2016 first round draft pick Ronnie Stanley, right, practice against Anthony Fabiano during OTA at Under Armour Performance Center.
Ravens 2016 first round draft pick Ronnie Stanley, right, practice against Anthony Fabiano during OTA at Under Armour Performance Center. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

The Ravens have a lot of problems to solve going into training camp, but it might be several games into the 2016 regular season before they find the right chemistry on the offensive line.

They have a couple of holes and a whole lot of questions about this unit, especially at left tackle, where rookie Ronnie Stanley, the No. 6 overall pick out of Notre Dame, is expected to start.


But the Ravens also need to know whether center Jeremy Zuttah's torn pectoral has completely healed after surgery at the end of last season and whether right tackle Rick Wagner's ankle is strong enough to put him near 100 percent.

They also need to know if third-year player John Urschel can fill in at left guard, a spot vacated by one of the team's most dominant and intimidating players, Kelechi Osemele.

"We have a talented group even without Marshal [Yanda] here — obviously, he'll get here when he gets here — you can see that at every position we have talent," Zuttah said. "It's just about being able to put it all together. Obviously, we lost a great player up front [Osemele]. It's going to be a little bit of a void, and everybody is going to have to kind of step up to replace it. It's not going to be one guy to take up all that slack."

But it all starts with Stanley.

The Ravens still have last year's starter, veteran Eugene Monroe, on the roster but it is Stanley's spot to lose. A team doesn't draft a player No. 6 overall unless it expects him to play right away.

In the two OTA practices open to the media, it's easy to see why the Ravens liked Stanley. He has good size and quick foot speed and is technically sound. Finesse is definitely his game.

But the kid needs to improve both his upper- and lower-body strength. It's hard to tell how much power he has now because the players aren't in full gear and they aren't going full speed, but sometimes he has gotten tossed around pretty well.

He certainly lacks the power of a Jonathan Ogden or Michael Oher. He reminds you more of Wagner, who also needed a strong offseason of hitting the weights a few years ago.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh did not say Stanley was the starter Tuesday. In fact, he challenged and yet at the same time teased Stanley, basically saying it was his position to take.

And it is, except there might be a time limit of about three or four weeks into the season.

"The ball is in his court. He has to earn it, but he's the sixth pick in the draft. I expect him to start," said Harbaugh. "That's his job to come out here and start. If he's not good enough to do it or somebody is better than him — if somebody beats him out or he can't beat somebody out— then that's how it's going to go. But it's competitive.

"You want to start for this team? Then go out there and be the best guy, and you'll start. It's about football. It's not about anything else other than football for us. Go out there and be the best and you'll be on the field playing."

The Ravens have another issue on the left side.

Urschel is versatile enough to play guard or center. He has quick feet and good speed, which allows him to make blocks into the second level, but he isn't very physical. That's been a problem with the Ravens for the past several years.


On short-yardage situations, they don't move the line of scrimmage. They get pounded instead of pounding. Zuttah isn't very physical either.

There are no concerns about Yanda, the right guard who has been named to the AFC Pro Bowl team five times during his nine years in the NFL.

Wagner, though, doesn't have that type of background. He struggled in 2015 because of a Lisfranc injury which forced him to miss the entire 2015 offseason and limited his movement. If he returns healthy, the Ravens could have a strong right side.

If not, they might not do as well as last season, when they had the 26th-ranked rushing offense, averaging only 92.4 rushing yards per game.

It's going to take time to coordinate this running game, especially with a line in flux, and five or six halfbacks competing for playing time.

"I love the effort, love the energy and love the atmosphere in the meetings — the desire to learn," said Harbaugh about his team's OTA practice Tuesday. "We're picking things up very quickly as a team, across the board. We just need to get good at what we're doing. We just need to really take care of our business, get our act together and get good at what we're doing. That's what we're focusing on."


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