LANDOVER — The Ravens entered the 2020 season with questions along the interior offensive line, starting a rookie lineman in a new position at right guard and a center who is less than a year removed from tearing several ligaments in his knee.
If there was anything the team could count on along the offensive line, it was the quality play of its bookend tackles, left tackle Ronnie Stanley and right tackle Orlando Brown Jr. But with Stanley sitting out Sunday’s 31-17 win over the Washington Football Team because of a shoulder injury, the team had to switch things around.
Starting D.J. Fluker at right tackle and Brown at left tackle, the Ravens' offensive line held up without their All-Pro left tackle against a talented but depleted Washington defensive line.
The Ravens ran for 144 yards on 32 carries against a Washington defense playing without defensive end Chase Young (groin), the No. 2 overall pick in April’s draft, and defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis, who is out for the season with a torn biceps. Quarterback Lamar Jackson was also only sacked once after the line allowed four sacks in back-to-back games.
“I thought those two guys did just a tremendous job. ... [They] adapted on the fly and it speaks volumes for the type of football players they are,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after the game.
It was the first time since 2014 that Fluker started at right tackle and he contributed in a major way on one of the biggest plays of the game.
Facing third-and-4 at midfield in the second quarter, Fluker helped Phillips double team a defensive tackle then sealed a block on a linebacker that cleared the way for Jackson’s 50-yard touchdown dash, the longest of his career. The score gave the Ravens a 14-0 lead.
Harbaugh said Fluker had practiced “quite a bit” at left tackle — Stanley did not participate in practice Thursday and Friday — but ultimately played on the right side. Brown, who has played extensively at right tackle since being drafted in the third round of the 2018 draft, moved over to left tackle, where he made 40 career starts at Oklahoma and became a two-time All American.
“It’s astonishing – they’re able to do their thing. They take their job very serious,” Jackson said. “That was [Brown’s] original position. He’s been playing right tackle for us, but he’s been doing a great job coming in and playing Ronnie’s spot for today.”
The Ravens' rushing stats without the long Jackson run (94 yards on 31 carries) leave a lot to be desired, but that the line made do without Stanley was a good sign — albeit against an inferior, undermanned opponent — especially in a pandemic-filled season that could force players out of their normal positions.
Meanwhile, Harbaugh said Stanley, who played every offensive snap in the team’s 34-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last Monday night before sitting out Sunday, is dealing with “more of a strain than anything.”
“We thought maybe he’d be able to go,” Harbaugh said. “We actually thought he would be able to go, but those things are dicey sometimes. He just wasn’t able to do it, and he tried. So, hopefully he’ll be back for next week. We’ll see.”