Ravens expect McKinnie to make immediate impact

Harbaugh wants new left tackle to adjust quickly to new teammates, scheme

August 27, 2011|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

The Ravens list offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie as weighing 345 pounds.

Don't believe it.

"Right now, I am probably like 370, I guess," the 6-foot-8 left tackle said Saturday prior to his first practice with the team since agreeing to a two-year deal worth up to $7.5 million on Wednesday. "I play at, like, 355. Not 335. I haven't been that since college [the University of Miami], my junior year."

Whatever weight the 10-year veteran plays at, the hope is that McKinnie can anchor an offensive line that has been in an almost constant state of flux during the preseason.

Center Matt Birk has missed the first three preseason games after undergoing surgery on his left knee. Right guard Marshal Yanda has sat out the last two contests due to back spasms. And the team has tested Oniel Cousins and rookie Jah Reid at right tackle.

Those changes could be minimized if McKinnie, 31, can revert to the player who — at his peak — powered the Minnesota Vikings' ground game, helping that team to six of the top eight rushing seasons in franchise history.

McKinnie said he thinks it won't take much time for him to develop a chemistry with the rest of his linemates.

"It'll probably take a few days, three or four days just to get the communication together and playing with my new guard [Ben Grubbs] and everything," McKinnie said. "From there, we'll just progress."

While the coaching staff understands that there will be a period of transition for McKinnie, there's also an expectation that he will make an immediate impact on the front five.

"I expect him to get up to speed in practice today," coach John Harbaugh said prior to Saturday's session. "Just set the bar high, expect him to know everything, and then work from there. He's a veteran. He knows pass protection, he knows the run plays. He's got to translate the techniques a little bit, but mainly, he's got to translate the terminology, and that is tougher in the heat of battle like checks or changes that happen on the line, the cadence, all of those things that are quick, split-second things and that he's not used to hearing. That is probably the part that will take the longest. It'll actually have to happen in games or as much of the high-speed drills as we can do between now and actually playing."

The regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 11 is just two weeks away, which means that McKinnie might have to take a crash course in the offensive playbook and blocking schemes.

The dwindling amount of practice time for McKinnie to demonstrate what he's learned is somewhat of a concern, offensive line coach Andy Moeller conceded.

"Well, yeah. And that's my job and Ben Grubbs' job when he's out on the field with him, and that's what we get paid to do," Moeller said. "I feel that just in the few days that he's been here, he'll be ready to go. He's a pro. He's a great player. He's plenty bright enough. Just comes from a little bit different of a system. So the terminology and stuff will take a little bit of time, but he'll be ready to roll."

McKinnie stood on the sideline during the Ravens' 34-31 win against the Washington Redskins Thursday night, and from his vantage point, he saw a unit with potential.

"I think they did a good job," he said. "They're young. So there's some things that I can come in as a veteran and try to help coach and fix from a technical standpoint. But I feel like it's a young group, and I'm here to help everybody get better."

McKinnie has had a history of off-field troubles, but he said those incidents are behind him.

"I'm actually more quiet and laid back than people think," he said. "Just little things here and there that used to pop up in my face, but nothing like that I see happening any more. That was kind of in my younger days."

Both Harbaugh and Moeller said inserting the first offensive line in the preseason finale against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night is an option, but it's not a certainty. McKinnie assured Ravens fans that he has a lot to play for.

"A dominant player," McKinnie said when asked what fans could expect from him. "One that's trying to be the best at his position. … I have a lot of motivation. So you're definitely going to see a lot of pancakes this year."

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