Versatility will play huge role in the building of the Ravens’ offensive line

OWINGS MILLS — Ravens offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris likes to move players around during the preseason workouts.

Having that versatility to move players into multiple positions is a strategy for dealing with injuries.

So, D’Alessandris will move a guard to the tackle position or another player to center, even though he has never played at that spot. It’s also a way to get the most talented players overall into the lineup.

“I think you have to have [versatility], just me,” D’Alessandris said. “I was fortunate enough to come up under a head coach, many, many years ago, when I started off my career, and the philosophy was, ‘The No. 2 right tackle might not be as good as that No. 2 right guard. Let’s find a way to get the five best [offensive linemen] on the field.’

“So, that’s how I grew up as a coach, to put your best five – as often as you can – on the field, so position flexibility is important for us here at the Ravens, and I know, for myself, as a coach, because you go into a game — you have seven, sometimes you have eight – but sometimes the roster has to change a little bit. Those guys have to be able to play multiple positions because you don’t know what the injury factor could be for that game.”

Pat Mekari might be the most versatile player on the team because he can play all five positions on the offensive line. D’Alessandris has also been flexible in moving some of the other younger players, like guard Andrew Vorhees switching from left guard to center on occasion.

The Ravens lost their starting guards — Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson — to free agency and traded right tackle Morgan Moses and a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft to the Jets in exchange for fourth- and sixth-round selections.

The team will have three new starters on the offensive line and the competition for those positions is expected to be intense.

Ben Cleveland and Andrew Voorhees are the favorites to start at guard. Josh Jones and Sala Aumavae-Laulu are also competing for jobs at guard, and both looked good in the offseason workouts.

Rookie second-round pick Roger Rosengarten could earn the starting right tackle position, where he earned All-American honors at the University of Washington. Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu is also pushing for playing time at tackle.

“Roger is doing a great job,” D’Alessandris said. “He’s eager, he hustles, he gives good effort, he plays to succeed, and [it’s] just [about] continued growth, understanding the offense and just let’s see now, when we put you in a game, how are you going to produce in games?

“You’re going to have some ups. You’re going to have some downs. How are you going to bounce back from some of those opportunities, but I’m glad we have him. He’s a heck of a young man.”

Ronnie Stanley is established at left tackle and Pro Bowler Tyler Linderbaum will start at center.

Versatility could play a major part in the battle for those other starting jobs once training camp begins.

“I’ve seen good competition,” D’Alessandris said. “I’ve seen each guy working, and I move them around quite a bit – for their benefit and also for our benefit – because the more they can do, guess what, [they] get to stay in this league longer, because you can play multiple positions, and they’ve all accepted that role and that opportunity. Andrew [Vorhees] is doing a great job. [Aumavae-Laulu] is doing a good job. Josh Jones is doing a good job.

“Ben is doing a good job inside there, so you just keep seeing all these young men doing it, and the good news is, this is the time of year where you’re learning assignment, communication [and] playing fast. The contact is not there. That’s going to come. Training camp is what that’s built for along with games. Then, we’ll see how it plays out from there.”

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