Keeping an Eye on Osemele at Left Tackle
Ravens left tackle, Eugene Monroe, was placed on injured reserve last week with a shoulder injury. An injury that hasn’t seen any improvement in over a month, according to NFL Network’s, Ian Rapoport. It’s a touchy situation regarding Monroe, who’s problems with the Ravens may extend past the injury front.
Jeff Zrebiec of The Sun reported that the team and Monroe don’t see eye-to-eye on a few things. Monroe declined to restructure his contract after last season, which he isn’t required to do by any means. But oft injured players and ones who haven’t lived up to their billing should accommodate the team when asked. Lardarius Webb for example, did just that. It was also reported that Monroe clashes with O-Line Coach, Juan Castillo, about how they need to go about things.
Monroe’s move to the IR opened the door for guard, Kelchi Osemele, to move to left tackle for Sunday’s meeting with the Seahawks. John Harbaugh wanted the best five offensive linemen on the field, which reading between the lines, tells me the James Hurst experiment is over. The undrafted Hurst is graded as possibly the worst offensive lineman in the entire NFL in his just under two years as a professional.
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It’s worth noting that the Ravens had James Hurst on the field as an extra blocker quite often on Sunday. Smart considering the Seahawks elite defense and the Ravens bringing along Jimmy Claussen.
With the future uncertain for Monoe in Baltimore, it begs the question, can Kelechi Osemele be the answer at left tackle for the Ravens?
If Monroe can’t salvage his relation with the Ravens and they part ways, the Ravens would save $2.1M on next years cap. (Owed $8.7M, $6.6M in dead money if cut before June 1). The amount of dead money the Ravens have on the books this year has hamstrung them a bit, and they certainly don’t want to start off with another $6.6M there next year.
I wrote sometime ago about Osemele, and the likely cost to bring back the free agent to be for 2016 and beyond. That was as a guard. I would expect that the price tag only goes up if you ask to resign him with intentions of making him the full time left tackle. The most important and highest paid position on the offensive line.
Before we talk about paying him like a left tackle, and anointing him the left tackle of the future, he has to be able to play the part.
Size wise, Osemele can absolutely fill the role. The 26-year old is 6’5”, 330 pounds. Arm length is an important feature in tackles. Getting your hands on the defender before they get theirs on you, and being able to keep them far enough away. His arms were measured at 35 7/8” at the scouting combine in 2012, which will more than suffice for the position. Not to mention that he played LT in college at Iowa State.
After watching the tape from Sunday’s game, would I say he is just as good a left tackle as he is at guard? Probably not. Did he play terribly against a top notch defense? Not at all. Would I make the decision to make him the full time left tackle with a contract extension today? No way. But I would like to see if he shows some improvement in the next few games now that he has knocked the rust off of moving back to his college position.
Osemele is great run blocker, but pass blocking is most essential for the left tackle spot. He did okay on Sunday. He was quick off the snap which we knew he was from watching him play guard. So that translated well. Against a bull rush he had good initial punch to keep the defender off a bit. Against the edge rush, he showed quickness to keep up, but sometimes would catch the rusher with his arms to the outside, rather than keeping his arms inside and gaining control. Getting your arms outside can lead to holding calls, but he didn’t get flagged for it at all. He wasn’t grabbing or wrapping up, he was more like a basketball player, posting up like a center in the paint (without his arms up).
I like the footwork. The technique needs some work. He was also late to get out in front and block on a couple of screens that went for negative yards. But I chalk it up again to being rusty, and tip of the cap to the guys playing defense too. Seattle threw some exotic looks their way. He looked to do a good job communicating with Ryan Jensen to his right. Always pointing things out pre snap. A lot of stunts that Seattle ran could have really thrown Osemele off, but he held his own out there.
This is something I’ll continue to watch over the next three games. It’s an audition for Osemele. Guards are easier to replace than left tackles. If you have a guy on the team who can play left tackle, they might just have to shell out the money and retain him with Eugene Monroe reaching “unreliable” status, playing just 17 games over the last two seasons, and clashing with the coaching staff. In his place we’ll watch Ryan Jensen play some guard, and there is John Urschel who’s natrual position is guard, but filling in a center for the injured Jeremy Zuttah.
Keeping Osemele for his versatility might the right move, but not the sexy move. Not the highlight reel skill position move that the fans would want. Signing an Alshon Jeffery is probably a pipe dream, but signing Osemele this offseason makes adding a talent like Jeffery at WR near impossible.
Next week when the Chiefs are in town, Osemele will get a less than favorable matchup with the Chiefs scary good pass rushing duo of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Houston however, has missed the last three games with a knee sprain, so his status is up in the air for now.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]