Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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Ravens bench Skura, move Mekari over to center for Tennessee showdown

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Luke Jones
Luke Jones
Luke Jones is the Ravens and Orioles beat reporter for WNST BaltimorePositive.com and is a PFWA member. His mind is consumed with useless sports knowledge, pro wrestler promos, and movie quotes, but he struggles to remember where he put his phone. Luke's favorite sports memories include being one of the thousands of kids who waited to get Cal Ripken's autograph after Orioles games in the summer of 1995, attending the Super Bowl XXXV victory parade with his father in the pouring rain, and watching the Terps advance to the Final Four at the Carrier Dome in 2002. Follow him on Twitter @BaltimoreLuke or email him at Luke@wnst.net.

BALTIMORE — Welcoming Tennessee to town for a rematch of their stunning playoff defeat last January, the Ravens debuted a new look along their struggling offensive line for Week 11.

After several poor snaps in last Sunday’s loss at New England, veteran center Matt Skura was benched with second-year lineman Patrick Mekari taking his place in the starting lineup. As an undrafted rookie, Mekari stepped into the starting center role after Skura suffered a season-ending knee injury last November and played admirably down the stretch for a record-setting offense in 2019.

Mekari moving over from right guard — the position where he had started each of the previous two games — meant 2019 fourth-round guard Ben Powers was making his first career start after playing sparingly to this point in his career. Powers played a career-high 34 offensive snaps last week when the Ravens benched right tackle D.J. Fluker at halftime and moved Mekari outside for the second half of the 23-17 loss to the Patriots.

“He’s a very versatile player — that’s one of his best strengths. Nobody works harder than Pat Mekari,” head coach John Harbaugh said earlier this week. “He just really understands what we’re doing. I think he could play any position on the offensive line, and he’s played the extra o-lineman this year, which is kind of a tight end position.”

Despite being benched last week, Fluker was back in the lineup at right tackle for the start of Sunday’s game against the Titans as the Ravens trotted out their fifth different starting offensive line combination of the season and third different one since the Week 7 bye.

After being elevated from the practice squad on Saturday afternoon, veteran wide receiver Dez Bryant was set to play in his second game with Baltimore. The former Dallas Cowboy played two snaps against Indianapolis two weeks ago, but he wasn’t elevated for Week 10.

“Dez is doing a good job. He’s really getting caught up, [and] he’s working hard at practice and in meetings,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said on Thursday. “It’s good to have him aboard. We’ll just keep working, and we’ll see where that leads moving forward. I don’t think there’s any real timeline right now, but I do think that if Dez keeps progressing, he will definitely become a factor in what we do.”

Veteran Luke Willson was also elevated from the practice squad to serve as Baltimore’s second tight end in the aftermath of the season-ending knee injury sustained by Nick Boyle last week. Offensive tackle Will Holden was also elevated from the practice squad on Saturday.

As expected, cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle) and inside linebacker L.J. Fort (finger) were active after despite being listed as questionable on the final injury report. Smith sat out the loss to the Patriots while Fort had missed the last two games.

After being designated as doubtful on Friday, defensive end Calais Campbell (calf) and Brandon Williams (ankle) were inactive. Campbell did some light jogging and stretching during pre-game warmups.

Meanwhile, the Titans placed defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (knee) on injured reserve Saturday and deactivated two other defensive starters: cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (knee) and safety Kenny Vaccaro (concussion). Tennessee did not have starting left guard Rodger Saffold (ankle) for Sunday’s game, but center Ben Jones was active despite missing practice all week with a knee injury.

Sunday’s referee is Alex Kemp.

According to Weather.com, the forecast in Baltimore called for cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-50s with winds five to 10 miles per hour and no rain in the forecast.

The Ravens were wearing their alternate black jerseys and white pants while Tennessee donned white tops with dark blue pants for Week 11.

Sunday marks the 21st all-time regular-season meeting between these teams with the series tied 10-10 and the postseason history tied at 2-2. Including the postseason, the Ravens entered Sunday 3-4 against the Titans in the Harbaugh era.

Below were Sunday’s inactives:

BALTIMORE
DE Calais Campbell
DT Brandon Williams
OLB Jihad Ward
OL Ben Bredeson
S Geno Stone

TENNESSEE
CB Adoree’ Jackson
WR Adam Humphries
S Kenny Vaccaro
G Rodger Saffold
LS Matt Orzech
TE MyCole Pruitt
DL Larrell Murchison

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