OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The running question that’s been asked throughout the season is still being posed as the Ravens prepare for their Week 16 matchup with the New York Giants.
When will Bryant McKinnie finally crack the lineup for a struggling offensive line? The veteran left tackle says he is preparing as though he might receive the call this week as the Ravens need a win to clinch their second straight AFC North title.
If the Ravens were to make a change — and there’s no indication they’re leaning in that direction — McKinnie would start at left tackle with Michael Oher presumably switching to the right side. This would leave rookie Kelechi Osemele to move inside to the left guard position.
For now, McKinnie says he will continue to prepare mentally while hoping to show enough during practice time to convince the coaching staff he is deserving of playing in games. McKinnie told WNST.net during the Ravens’ Week 8 bye that he expected to be named a starter at some point during the second half of the season but understandably took a softer stance when asked about the possibility of playing more against the Giants this Sunday.
“It’s a possibility,” said McKinnie, who hadn’t heard any indication from the coaching staff of a new rotation prior to Wednesday’s practice. “We’ve just got to wait and see.”
The Ravens have struggled to protect Joe Flacco all season as opponents have racked up 34 sacks against the Baltimore quarterback. In Sunday’s 34-17 loss to Denver, Flacco was sacked three times and the Broncos registered nine quarterback hits.
McKinnie has expressed confidence in his ability throughout the season, so it was no surprise to hear his response when asked what’s gone through his mind when seeing Flacco take beatings against opposing defenses with talented pass rushers.
“If I was out there, maybe some things would be a little bit different,” McKinnie said. “But there’s not too much I can do.”
The 33-year-old tackle didn’t miss an offensive snap while starting all 16 games of the 2011 regular season and both playoff contests, but his conditioning and weight came into question during the offseason and his late arrival in training camp appeared to be the last straw for coach John Harbaugh and the rest of the staff.
After the Ravens nearly released McKinnie and cut his salary by $1 million less than a week before the start of the season, Oher has started all 14 games this season at left tackle while the rookie Osemele has manned the right tackle spot all year.
“When we think [McKinnie] is the best option, we will put him in there,” said coach John Harbaugh last week when asked about the veteran’s status. “He is working hard at practice. He, obviously, has some ability [as a] pass-protector; that’s a big deal, no doubt about it. I would have no qualms about him going into the game. If we feel like he’s the best option at one position or another, we’ll do it. Right now, we think we have the best group of guys out there, but that could change.”
Though probably the best pass-blocking left tackle on the roster, McKinnie is a poor run blocker and the Ravens are not convinced he gives them the best chance to win after a tumultuous offseason that included continuing financial concerns. McKinnie was also graded as the Ravens’ lowest-rated starting offensive lineman during the 2011 season, according to Pro Football Focus.
However, the Ravens are in the midst of a three-game losing streak and have already purged their offensive coordinator from the organization, so nothing can be dismissed at this point.
Why would the Ravens finally make the change now?
“Because we’re at the end and you never know what can happen,” said McKinnie as he laughed softly.
The Ravens’ decision to part ways with Cam Cameron last week smelled of desperation, but it’s still difficult to envision McKinnie earning his starting job back now if he didn’t over the first 15 weeks of the regular season.
Listen to McKinnie’s conversation with AM 1570 WNST.net on Tuesday right here.