Bubble watch: Offensive line

Bubble watch: Offensive line
August 14, 2013, 11:00 am
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The major challenge for the Ravens front office and coaching staff over the next few weeks will be deciding which players ultimately make the final 53-man roster. The Ravens must trim their roster to 75 players by Aug. 27, and then the final 53-man roster must be set by Aug. 31, two days after the last preseason game in St. Louis.

Of course, many of those 53 spots are already spoken for. Coach John Harbaugh likes to say there is competition for every spot, but this just in, Joe Flacco will make this team. So will Ray Rice. And Terrell Suggs. And Marshal Yanda. In fact, 40 or so roster spots are probably already set, which leaves about 50 players fighting for roughly a dozen spots.

In this series we are taking a closer look at some of those players on the roster bubble and assessing their chances of making the team. (Previously: QB, RB, WR, TE). Today, it’s the offensive line.

ON THE BUBBLE: T Rick Wagner

After some of the usual soap opera drama, Bryant McKinnie is back at left tackle, Michael Oher is ensconced at right tackle, and all is presumably well with the Ravens offensive line once again.

But considering McKinnie never seems to be too far from the doghouse, and that he is turns 34 in September, it makes sense to have an understudy ready. That's what the Ravens are looking for in Wagner, a fifth-round pick out of Wisconsin in this year's draft.

"What Rick is shooting for is to be the third tackle, to be the backup left tackle if something happens to Bryant or the backup right tackle if something were to happen to Michael," run game coordinator Juan Castillo said after practice on Tuesday. "That’s where he is and that’s where he is working. He’s doing a good job"

Castillo added that Wagner (6-6, 310) squares off every day in practice against some of the league's best pass rushers in Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.

"Rick has really been able to go against two of the better outside linebackers – or rushers – in the NFL, and he’s done a really good job with those guys,” Castillo said.

With Marshal Yanda missing the early part of camp, the Ravens have frequently lined up with McKinnie and Oher at tackles, Kelechi Osemele and Jah Reid at guard and either Gino Gradkowski or A.Q. Shipley at center.

The Ravens have often kept nine offensive linemen,  and guard Ramon Harewood is likely back as well, although he has been battling through knee injuries.

That would seem to leave just one slot for a group that includes Wagner, Jack Cornell, J.J. Unga, David Mims and several others.

The Ravens, though, like the Wisconsin pedigree of Wagner, and invested a fifth-round pick in him. They wouldn't have done that if they didn't see potential.

Projection: Makes the team