The left guard who joined the Ravens’ starting offensive line for the first 11-on-11 repetitions of Monday’s practice was an unlikely candidate: two Division I offers coming out of high school, a two-year starter at tackle for California, undrafted, then absent for mandatory minicamp.
But even with training camp ending Tuesday, the Ravens’ left guard competition is wide open. Rookie Ben Powers opened camp with the first team. Then Jermaine Eluemunor stepped in. James Hurst has remained in the mix. On Monday, it was the surprising Patrick Mekari who shared repetitions with Eluemunor.
“We’ve kind of been working him up to this,” coach John Harbaugh said. “He played well in the [preseason] game [Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars]. He had a good practice yesterday. Let’s see what he can do. That’s our plan. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what training camp’s for.”
And minicamp is there to ease the transition to the NFL, but the 6-foot-4, 308-pound Mekari missed it entirely, sidelined by a back injury. He said he feels “100%” now, which is a fair bit better than he did in June.
“Just being out obviously [stinks], especially when you’re an undrafted rookie,” he said. “You’re just trying to find your place and make your way and impress the coaches. So that was frustrating, but I was able to get back in and get into the swing of things.”
Mekari’s football career has been hard to predict. After three years at center on the varsity at Westlake High School (Calif.), he had just two offers to play college football. One was from Utah State. The other was from Cal, where his brother, Tony, played nose tackle.
Mekari (pronunced muh-CARE-ee) chose to follow family. As a true freshman in 2015, he appeared in six games at guard. The next year, he started at left tackle, right tackle and left guard. Over his final two seasons, he earned All-Pac-12 honorable mention and second-team all-conference honors as the Golden Bears’ left tackle.
A leg injury ended Mekari’s senior year in late November, and he wasn’t able to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, a postseason showcase. The Ravens signed him after he went undrafted, and he’s split time between guard and center, including in Thursday’s opener.
“Just working hard,” he said of his approach to camp. “It’s kind of just my attitude about things, just come out here and prove something. Yesterday doesn’t mean anything. It’s all about today. Just want to keep working out here, and if I get the opportunity, just want to take advantage of it.”
>> Quarterback Lamar Jackson had done well to avoid costly interceptions for much of training camp — until Sunday. For the second straight day, Jackson threw a pick-six in practice. First, it was cornerback Marlon Humphrey cutting in front of a pass at the goal line; had the play continued Sunday, no one would have stopped him from scoring.
On Monday, defensive back-linebacker Anthony Levine Sr. broke on an out route by tight end Mark Andrews and picked off Jackson’s pass. This time, there was no stopping him from sprinting the 25 to 30 yards to the end zone. Humphrey also added another goal-line interception on a bobbling grab in front of wide receiver Jaleel Scott.
>> Offensively, wide receiver Miles Boykin and tight end Nick Boyle had strong days for a passing offense that often struggled to break free against the Ravens secondary. Scott also had a long completion down the sideline after blowing by cornerback Justin Bethel, while running back Tyler Ervin broke into the empty field on a wheel route against linebacker Aaron Adeoye.