OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Eugene Monroe is right where he wants to be: anchoring the left side of the Baltimore Ravens offensive line.
The Ravens hope he stays there a long time, as evidenced by the five-year, $37.5 million contract they gave him in March.
The bar at left tackle is high in Baltimore, given that the team’s first-ever draft pick was tackle Jonathan Ogden, now a member of the Hall of Fame. Since Ogden’s retirement after the 2007 season, however, the Ravens have struggled to find a permanent answer at the position.
Players such as Michael Oher, Jared Gaither and Bryant McKinnie have filled in with underwhelming results. McKinnie’s struggles early last season led the Ravens to trade for Monroe — the first in-season trade in franchise history. The Ravens sent fourth- and fifth-round picks to the Jacksonville Jaguars in October for Monroe, who started the final 11 games of the season for the Ravens.
Monroe, a New Jersey native who played collegiately at Virginia, briefly tested free agency in March but then returned to the team he said “felt like home.”
“I definitely love the organization,” Monroe said after Wednesday’s training camp workout. “I was welcomed like a brother as soon as I got here midseason last year. My family is close. My wife’s family is right here. It was just the perfect situation for me.”
Monroe’s task now is to anchor a Ravens line has a lot of room for improvement after a thoroughly disappointing 2013 season. The Ravens ranked 29th overall in offense last season and last in rushing yards per game (3.1). Joe Flacco was sacked 48 times, the most of his career.
“He’s got a long way to go. It’s not like he’s arrived or anything like that,” coach John Harbaugh said of Monroe. “He’ll be the first to tell you (that), which is what I love about Eugene Monroe. He works every day. He wants to improve, and he’ll be holding down that spot, God willing, for many years to come.”
Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda also returns to the offensive line, but the Ravens are projected to have new starters in former Buccanners center Jeremy Zuttah and second-year tackle Rick Wagner, who played sparingly last season. Kelechi Osemele is also back, but the left guard missed most of last season with a back injury.
The line is learning a new system of new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, who joined the Ravens after the team missed the playoffs for the first time in the six-year Harbaugh era.
NOTE: Rookie defensive linemen Timmy Jernigan and Brent Urban were both injured on the same play during a run drill and did not return. Jernigan, a second-round pick, appeared to suffer a back injury and walked off gingerly under his own power. Urban was carted off the field, and Harbaugh said Urban would undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test on his right knee on Wednesday night.
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