Ben Powers

Ravens Bench C Matt Skura

The Ravens are making a bold move in advance of this afternoon’s critical matchup with the Titans. Per Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com, Baltimore is benching starting center Matt Skura. Second-year pro Patrick Mekari will get the nod in Skura’s stead.

Skura has had issues snapping the ball in each of the past two weeks. In a win over the Colts in Week 9, the problem was attributed to a cut on his hand, and in the team’s loss to the Patriots last week, the heavy rains throughout the game certainly didn’t help. Still, poor snaps torpedoed two second-half drives against New England, and head coach John Harbaugh said afterwards, “[the rain’s] not an excuse — we still have to make our snaps. They made their snaps.”

The Ravens’ offense has struggled to get in a rhythm this season, and the O-line play has been a big reason for that. The unit has often struggled to give QB Lamar Jackson ample time to throw, and it has generally been unable to open running lanes for Jackson and Baltimore’s stable of RBs. Losing RG Marshal Yanda to retirement in the offseason was obviously a major blow, and LT Ronnie Stanley went on season-ending IR with a severe ankle injury earlier this month. Yanda’s replacement, rookie Tyre Phillips, has also missed time due to injury.

Like the other members of the Ravens’ offensive front, Skura played well in 2019, though his season was cut short thanks to ACL, MCL and PCL tears that he suffered nearly one year ago today. The fact that he sufficiently recovered from that injury in time to participate in the team’s first padded practice this summer was remarkable, but it’s possible that he’s still not back to full strength.

Mekari has started three games at guard this year, and his move to the pivot will allow 2019 fourth-rounder Ben Powers to get his first start of his pro career at right guard, as Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic tweets. Skura, meanwhile, will have a chance to return later in the season once he has had the opportunity to clear his head.

The former UDFA out of Duke is playing out the 2020 campaign on the low-level RFA tender (though if he hadn’t gotten injured, the Ravens may have needed to use a higher tender on him). He had the chance to position himself well for a big payday this offseason, but unless things improve quickly, he may need to settle for a modest one-year pact in 2021.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Notes: Ravens, Hockenson, Jones

Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce is doubtful to play in Monday Night’s game against the Rams with an ankle injury, according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic. Peirce started Baltimore’s first nine games before going down. Veteran Domato Peko Sr. will replace Peirce in the lineup.

Also via Zrebiec, wide receiver Chris Moore, offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, and offensive guard Ben Powers all remain questionable with injuries of their own. Stanley, who is dealing with an ankle issue of his own, is the only starter of the three, but he would be a substantial loss as the team’s starting right tackle. Moore has started one game this season and played sparingly, while Powers has yet to take the field.

Here’s more Saturday notes on the injury front around the NFL:

  • Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson was added to the injury report as questionable with a shoulder injury, according to a team press release. The eight overall pick in this year’s draft practiced all week without any reported issues so the news comes as a surprise. Hockenson has split time at tight end this year with Jesse James, but represents a far superior pass-catching option for quarterback Jeff Driskel. Hockenson has made 26 receptions and recorded 349 yards, while James has only caught 8 of 15 targets and gained 64 yards.
  • The Broncos signed cornerback Cyrus Jones last week and he was a healthy scratch against the Vikings. Even if the team wanted to activate him tomorrow, though, Jones has been ruled out with an illness, according to Aric DiLalla of Broncos.com. Jones was a second-round selection by the Patriots in 2016, but was released by New England earlier this season. He then jumped between the Ravens and Patriots practice squads before signing in Denver.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/3/19

We’ll keep track the latest late-round draft pick signings here: