Guessing The Starters: Offense


Instead of posting the wide receiver preview today, we’ll switch gears to a little bit less wordy, more interesting thing, the starting lineup. After half of the preseason games have been played, it’s a good time to begin to speculate and argue about who should and will start. Just five seconds ago, I was thinking about which way I should go with this post. Should I do it the way that I think it should be, or the way it might turn out when the Ravens’ coaching staff makes the call?

Well, I didn’t make a decision. I’ll put two options at each position, one option being “Projection”, and the other being “My Pick”. In most cases, it will be the same guy, but in certain positions, the two names will be different. With the picks will be a short explanation.

Offense today, defense tomorrow, and special teams on Friday. Not a lot of differences between the projections and my picks on offense, but there will be more on the other units. Projected offensive lineup after the jump.

Projection: Joe Flacco
My Pick: Joe Flacco
The Reason: Flacco’s shown for the last two seasons that he’s a legitimate NFL quarterback, and he looks to take a much bigger step this season. Marc Bulger is not an NFL starter anymore, and Troy Smith never has been. Unibrow Joe’s got his spot cemented.

Projection: Ray Rice
My Pick: Ray Rice
The Reason: While I’m a huge Willis McGahee supporter and I firmly believe that he can get the job done as a starter for any NFL team, Ray Rice had a career year last season and hopefully will prove that it wasn’t a fluke. He’s earned the starting job, he’s earned the right to not have to worry about losing the starting job, and the only thing that would change anyone’s mind about Rice being the starter is if he has a terrible season, and even then, it might be hard to drop Rice from his pedestal of awesomeness because of the work he did last year.

Projection: Le’Ron McClain
My Pick: Le’Ron McClain
The Reason: “Bring The Pain” McClain has been a deserving Pro Bowler the last two seasons, and don’t expect that to change this year. Talk has been that he’ll get more carries as the Ravens try to reduce the load on Ray Rice’s shoulders this year.

Wide Receiver:
Projections: Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason
My Picks: Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason
The Reason: Boldin and Mason are the established NFL stars, and because of that, they’ll start. Mason will make the catches outside the numbers, Boldin with the ones inside. While Mark Clayton and Donte Stallworth will be valuable assets to the passing game, they’re not starter-quality.

Tight End:
Projection: Todd Heap
My Pick: Todd Heap
The Reason: Before I go into the reason for picking a former Pro Bowler and veteran as the starter, let me just say that this one was pretty damn close for “My Pick”. I love Ed Dickson. I think he’ll be an impact player for years and he’ll be the Ravens’ biggest weapon in 5 seasons. Just a bold prediction, don’t take it to the bank. With that said, he’s not there yet, neither is Dennis Pitta, who’s slightly more polished than Dickson. Heap will be a force in the red zone and be a good check-down option for Flacco.

Offensive Tackle:
Projections: Michael Oher (Left), Oniel Cousins (Right)
My Picks: Michael Oher (Left), Jared Gaither (Right)
The Reason: Now, this one’s all screwed up. If I had my way, Gaither would still be on the left and Oher the right. Oher can’t stay with the top pass rushers in the league, and is better suited for the right side. But, because Jared Gaither is injured and has lost 40 pounds, there’s not really a choice. Cousins is my projection, because as of now, Gaither’s AWOL and will probably not return before the regular season starts. Cousins is able to fill in well if he recovers quickly from his recently acquired concussion.

Projection: Matt Birk
My Pick: Matt Birk
The Reason: The reason is that Matt Birk is one of the best three to five centers in the NFL, and he plays for the Ravens. His leadership is invaluable, his knowledge of the game is second-to-none and to top it all off, he’s one hell of a blocker.

Offensive Guard:
Projection: Ben Grubbs (Left), Marshal Yanda (Right)
My Pick: Ben Grubbs (Left), Marshal Yanda (Right)
The Reason: Ben Grubbs is a stud. One of the top offensive guards in the NFL, turning into the best right before our eyes. The reason you don’t say his name that much is because you don’t need to. He does his job and does it well. Yanda has constantly had his positions switched and roles changed since he’s been with the Ravens, and now it seems like he’s growing into a solid right guard. With all the hard work he’s put in, it’s only fitting that he’d be promoted from a “fill in when necessary” guy to a real starter. Cam Cameron agrees.

That’s it for the offense. Defense tomorrow, plus the wide receiver preview. Stay classy, internet.