Tue, Dec 10, 2019

The Ravens have replaced the Patriots as the new Super Bowl frontrunner, but in order to get to Miami in February, they’re going to be forced to overcome the loss of a key offensive player. During the Ravens’ 45-6 win over the Rams on Monday night, starting center Matt Skura was carted off with what was immediately described as a sprained knee. It turns out, the injury is worse than the Ravens initially thought. According to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, Skura will miss the remainder of the season

He’ll be replaced by rookie Patrick Mekari, who played well in relief of Skura on Monday night, but he has yet to start a game in the NFL after playing guard and tackle at Cal. It’s a brutal blow for the Ravens considering just how well their offensive line has played all season long. The Ravens, who now have the league’s top offense by DVOA after their explosion against the Rams, have been mauling teams at the line of scrimmage.

By Football Outsiders’ metrics, the Ravens rank fourth in run blocking and 17th in pass protection, the latter of which matters significantly less considering their quarterback is Lamar Jackson. On the season, the Ravens are leading the league with 2,316 rushing yards (714 more yards than the next closest team) and are averaging 5.7 yards per attempt. According to Pro Football Focus (via NFL.com), Skura has been the league’s 11th-best run blocking center.

Their Week 13 game against the 49ers will be the first time all season they’re forced to shake up the starting five. But Mekari did display signs of promise on Monday night, a night that saw the league’s best interior lineman — and maybe the league’s best player regardless of position — Aaron Donald notch only one tackle. For that, Mekari deserves some credit. According to PFF (via the Ravens’ website), Mekari was on the field for 61 out of 77 possible offensive snaps. He allowed only two quarterback hurries.

“I think it says a lot about Pat Mekari and it says a lot about [offensive line coach] Joe [D’Alessandris] and the job he does with those guys,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, per the Ravens’ website. “To step in there and still play at that high level. I mean, Matt Skura was playing at a very high level. It looks Patrick did the same, there was no drop off at all. Rookie, it says a lot.”

Up next for the Ravens? A 49ers defense that features the likes of Dee Ford (hurt, but could be back by Sunday), DeForest Buckner, D.J. Jones, Arik Armstead, and Nick Bosa on the line of scrimmage. No team has recorded more sacks than the 49ers.

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