Ravens OL John Simpson "has a leg up" in the race for starting at LG

Las Vegas Raiders v Miami Dolphins
Las Vegas Raiders v Miami Dolphins / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

The Ravens have a rather strong team all across the field entering the 2023 season. Their first official depth chart was released a few days ago ahead of the first preseason game, and it didn't feature any glaring holes. However, Baltimore still has to decide who is going to start at Left Guard.

With veteran Ben Cleveland nothing but out of the race to get that starting LG gig himself, there are still two candidates fighting for the role with a few weeks before the regular season gets rolling: veteran John Simpson and rookie Sala Aumavae-Laulu.

Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus looked into the stats from the first preseason game played by the Ravens on Saturday and came to the conclusion that Simpson "has a leg up" in the race to earn the starting role.

According to McGuinness and PFF charting, Sala got 33 snaps on Saturday while Simpson logged 23. However, it's worth noting that the latter was who John Harbaugh picked to start the game against the Eagles.

McGuinness thinks Simpson "looked good in pass protection," adding that the folks grading plays at PFF gave him an 86.0 pass-blocking grade. That said, McGuinness noted how Simpson "didn’t make a huge impact on a limited selection of run plays," lacking chops on that part of the game.

Discussing rookie Sala's first pro game, the analyst wrote that he "struggled more than Simpson," pointing out that Sala "let up a quarterback hurry and had another two losses in pass protection," earning him a much-lower 66.1 PFF pass-blocking grade.

McGuinness also thinks that Sala "didn't hold up well as a run blocker either," which makes that a tie between him and Simpson.

Simpson has improved his career PFF grades since entering the league in 2020. He earned a 45.8 mark as a rookie but he's raised the bar in the last two seasons getting graded at 53.0 in 2021 and 59.6 last year.

Sala earned a 77.1 PFF grade at right tackle in his final season at Oregon, but he was not graded at left guard per se while still a member of the Ducks.

With these two struggling to put on solid work blocking opponents on rushing plays, the final decision made by the Ravens coaches might simply come down to who can defend Lamar Jackson on pass plays better. If that's the case, it looks like John Simpson, indeed, might be leading this two-man race to start at the LG position in the Ravens OL.

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