What Is The Ravens Backup Plan For Right Tackle?
By Brett Foote
Jun 19, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Rick Wagner (71) blocks offensive tackle Brett Van Sloten (61) during minicamp at the Under Armour Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
The Ravens are seemingly placing a great deal of faith in incumbent right tackle Rick Wagner. After drafting Wagner in the fifth round of the 2013 draft, he went on to play a small percentage of snaps. After struggling when replacing an injured Michael Oher in game 1 of the 2013 season, Wagner did improve as the year went along. But if Wagner doesn’t work out, what is the Ravens backup plan for right tackle?
Ozzie Newsome did essentially nothing to bring in competition for Wagner in terms of signing a veteran or spending a draft pick on the position. Wagner proved that he needs snaps to learn and improve, as he finished last season ranked as the sixth best lineman on the Ravens after playing a mere 12 percent of the team’s total snaps. There is definitely potential here, especially for a guy who spent three years as a starter at Wisconsin.
Certainly a man as wise as Ozzie Newsome has a backup plan of some sort, even if it isn’t readily apparent by looking at the depth chart.
To be fair, it would be hard for Wagner to fare any worse than Michael Oher did last year. Oher was brutal in both the run and pass game, ranking as one of the worst starting offensive linemen in the NFL in 2013. The decision to let him walk in free agency was a no brainer after Oher proved to be a huge bust as a former first round pick.
So the only way to know if Wagner is going to work out and stick as the starting right tackle is to give him a fair shot at it. But what if he fails and proves to be a disappointment at the position? Certainly a man as wise as Ozzie Newsome has a backup plan of some sort, even if it isn’t readily apparent by looking at the depth chart.
Wagner currently has Ryan Jensen, David Mims, and Brett Von Sloten behind him on the depth chart. Jensen is a promising former sixth round pick who played left tackle in college. He is built like an NFL guard at 6’4″ and 318 pounds but missed all of 2013 with a broken foot. Jensen allowed zero sacks as a senior in college and has solid strength and speed for the position.
Mims and Van Sloten are undrafted free agents who are likely going to just turn out to be camp bodies. Neither is a serious threat for snaps behind Wagner at this point, and it appears that Jensen is his only real competition right now. Having said that, it’s doubtful that Jensen stands a fair chance at the moment after the team has thrown so much support behind Wagner.
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Alternatively, Newsome could bring in a veteran if Wagner struggles. Eric Winston’s name has been batted around a lot, and Bryan McKinnie has told the press that he would be willing to play right tackle if needed. There are a couple of reasonable names out there that could step in and at least be serviceable.
The other option is to move some guys around along the offensive line. Kelechi Osemele is a possibility, as he has experience playing left and right tackle. Jah Reid was running with the 2’s early in camp, but he has been a huge disappointment to date. While either would likely be less than ideal, it is something that Newsome could be seriously considering. Shuffling offensive lines around is a common practice in the NFL and is often necessary to find the optimal lineup.
Wagner is going to get the benefit of the doubt, at least for a while. He could possibly make it to the regular season, even if he doesn’t play extremely well in the preseason. The team is backing him 100% right now, but they certainly have a contingency plan in place (or two). Exactly what the Ravens backup plan for right tackle is, only they know for sure.
What do you think the Ravens should do if Rick Wagner doesn’t pan out at right tackle? Should they sign a veteran or give Ryan Jensen a chance?