Ravens: D.J Fluker has exceeded expectations, even without starting
Entering this offseason, D.J. Fluker was a free agent set to test the market. He eventually landed in Baltimore on a one-year deal, one million dollar contract. Many expected him to be a starter, but as a backup, he has been just as valuable, if not more valuable than what was expected.
D.J. Fluker is a well-traveled veteran. Drafted out of the University of Alabama by the San Diego Chargers with the number 11 pick. Originally drafted to be a tackle, Fluker started on the left side, moved to right tackle, and then kicked inside to guard. There Fluker played for the New York Giants, as well as the Seattle Seahawks. Entering this offseason, Fluker was released by the Seattle Seahawks with fellow lineman Justin Britt as a part of their offensive line rebuild, leaving Fluker a free agent and the Ravens signed him shortly after.
When the Ravens signed him they expected him to compete with former fourth-round pick Ben Powers, and newly drafted Tyree Phillips and Ben Bredeson for the right guard position. D.J. Fluker took the quarantined offseason and put it to good use. Fluker cut his body fat in half, all while maintaining his 6’5″ 340-lbs. frame. When he arrived in Baltimore Fluker looked thinned down and cut. A mammoth of a man, when he walked into the facility, it was noticed.
D.J. Fluker instantly had a solid camp and was squarely in the mix to be a starter on the offensive line. Exiting camp many expected Fluker to line up as the starter at right guard week one and were surprised when the rookie Phillips started instead. For Fluker, that was no problem as he has played many roles in the past.
During the offseason, D.J. Fluker had dealt with some offseason, off the field issues, but it is clear it only made him stronger. He came to Baltimore motivated and willing to share his story. That helped him get acclimated with his teammates and the city and he was accepted immediately. Fluker posted many workouts like the one below, showing some insane workouts that show how he made a massive transformation in his body.
After all this work, the Ravens have been rewarded with a bargain find. D.J. Fluker has opened the season filling James Hurst‘s’ old role. The do-it-all offensive lineman. In week one he instantly was thrust into the game due to a Ronnie Stanley hip injury. The former failed tackle played the last 24 snaps at left tackle. He played solidly and then returned to the bench for the next two weeks.
Entering week four Ronnie Stanley was dealing with injuries and his status for the game was in question. It was assumed Fluker would replace him there. But on Friday, head coach John Harbaugh says the coaching staff decided to move Orlando Brown Jr. from right tackle to the left side and start Fluker at right tackle. The switch went smoothly for both the veteran and the young Pro Bowler and the offensive line looked solid. Although the pass protection wasn’t the best, it was more than enough to get the win.
For the season, D.J. Fluker has only allowed one sack but has had two penalties called on him. With a 60.6 pff grade, Fluker is by no means a high-level starter currently; and that is ok. Because what he is, is a veteran player with lots of experience and versatility. He is also a great player to have in the locker room and made a lot of fans in Seattle because of his personality. He brings a level of stability to the offensive line knowing they have a veteran who can play at an average to an above-average level.
When looking at the comparison to James Hurst, Hurst was a terrible starter at tackle early in his career, he then became a backup and improved in limited time to be serviceable. That prompted a move to left guard where he started to thrive and started there while also being the backup swing tackle. With Tyree Phillips doubtful for week four’s matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, Fluker may be in line to start at right guard this week. This is his opportunity to prove he can start for the remainder of the season, as well as being the backup swing tackle.
The offensive line hasn’t been terrible to date, but there is room for improvement. The line has seemed not to gel though. With all-pro Ronnie Stanley set to return, a move to right guard for D.J. Fluker could be the right combination. Only time will tell, but the fact that we can trust Fluker to start and backup four positions provides more value than anyone could have expected heading into the season. Thus far he has been a steal for one million, and his play going forward may only help prove that.