Should the Ravens feel confident about their current center options?
As Harbaugh stated, Mekari has played lots of football. Last year, Mekari and the now-retired Alejandro Villanueva’s versatility kept the Ravens’ offensive line from completely falling apart.
Originally, Villanueva was expected to man the right tackle position while Mekari would be a top reserve tackle. Things changed.
It’s been a constant narrative that the Ravens suffered a catastrophic amount of injuries and their line was not exempt from the strange epidemic that befell the team in 2021.
Once it was determined that Ronnie Stanley would miss yet another season, the line underwent a reconstruction and Mekari settled in at right tackle, despite playing his whole NFL career as an interior lineman.
Harbaugh’s statement concerning Mekari stepping in a center no doubt brought back memories of Mekari sailing snaps over Lamar Jackson’s head against the Buffalo Bills in the 2020 playoffs.
Perhaps fans will also remember 2019 when Mekari stepped in for the injured Matt Skura and held up well when facing off against Aaron Donald…you may have heard of him.
During that game, the Ravens completely dismantled the Jarrod Goff-led Rams 45-6 while holding Donald to one tackle. That’s correct…one tackle.
Despite some success starting at center for the Ravens, after the Bills playoff game, they moved the now-departed Bozeman to center.
Last season, Pro Football Focus ranked Bozeman as the 11th-ranked center in the NFL. He finished the 2021 season with an offense grade of 73.3, a pass block grade of 73.8, and a run block grade of 70.7. He allowed three sacks, three quarterback hits, and 21 total pressures allowed.
Mekari played 754 snaps at right tackle during the 2021 season. He was the 54th-ranked tackle (this includes left tackles), finishing the season with a 66.1 overall PFF grade, 73.8 pass-blocking grade, and a 55.7 run-blocking grade. He allowed four sacks, one quarterback hit, and 23 total pressures.
How was Mekari as a center? In 2019, he played 388 out of 431 total snaps at center, where he compiled a 70.5 overall grade, 66.8 pass-blocking grade, and a 70.1 run-blocking grade.
In 2020, Mekari played 280 out of 554 snaps at center. He received a 66.9 overall grade, an 86.5 pass-blocking grade, and a 63.1 run-blocking grade. For those scoring at home, in 2019, Mekari was a little more than four points better at center versus 2021 when he played tackle.
His 2019 numbers are less than three points below Bozeman’s overall grade in 2021. Mekari’s 70.5 overall grade in 2019 would have ranked him 13th among all NFL centers in 2021, just two spots away from the departed Bozeman. His ranking would have also put him just ahead of former Raven Ryan Jensen.
Trystan Colon has a much smaller sample size when compared to Mekari and Bozeman. Colon played 147 snaps in 2021 with 115 snaps coming at center.
He received a 62.6 overall grade, a 74.5 pass-blocking grade, and a 58.8 run-blocking grade. He allowed one sack, one quarterback hit, and two total pressures.
Colon fared slightly better during the 2020 season where he played 127 total snaps, all of which were at center. In 2020, Colon received an overall grade of 67.6 with a 70.0 pass-blocking grade and a 72.5 run-blocking grade.
Of course, none of these statistics include botched snaps.
Harbaugh seemed to put the kibosh on the Ravens adding any centers from free agency. This is an interesting sentiment considering former Cleveland Brown J.C. Tretter remains a free agent.
Tretter was the sixth-ranked center according to PFF in 2021. The 6-foot-4-inch 307-pound, 31-year-old center sported a 78.7 overall grade with an 83.7 pass block grade and a 74.8 run block grade.
If DeCosta does indeed wish to upgrade the offensive line, he has been successful in doing so at the tackle position. Thus far he has failed to address the center position despite Tretter being a clear upgrade.