<
>

Ravens sticking with Eugene Monroe as starting left tackle

OWINGS MILLS, Md. --Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh made it clear -- there is no competition for the starting job at left tackle.

Some wondered whether that was going to be the case after Eugene Monroe suited up but didn't start in Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game at New England. Undrafted rookie James Hurst protected Joe Flacco's blind side for both playoff games.

Harbaugh explained that Monroe wasn't at full strength with an ankle injury, but they made him active because they'd prefer using him at tackle if an injury occurred instead of shuffling the offensive line again.

"Eugene is our starter going forward," Harbaugh said, "and we’re happy to have that be the case.”

Monroe was the Ravens' most expensive free-agent signing last year, receiving $19 million guaranteed ($3 million more than any other player signed by the team). He also ranked among the Ravens' biggest disappointments.

According to Pro Football Focus, Monroe was the 23rd-best starting left tackle (out of 32 teams) and was the Ravens' second-worst offensive player. Only his replacement, Hurst, had a lower rating on the Ravens' offense.

Monroe has never been a Pro Bowl-type player, but he is more athletically gifted than Hurst. The Ravens, though, went 4-1 in the regular season without Monroe, and Hurst made fewer mental mistakes than Monroe.

Even though he only played in 11 games, Monroe still tied for the team lead with nine penalties: three holding, two false start, one illegal formation, one unsportsmanlike conduct, one illegal man downfield and one illegal use of the hands. He also allowed three sacks and 14 quarterback hurries.

What really bothers Monroe is being sidelined for five games, which is more than his previous five seasons combined (four missed games). He was out four weeks early in the season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery and was inactive for the regular-season finale as well as the wild-card playoff game because of an ankle injury.

"Missing time definitely wasn’t fun," Monroe said. "Exciting that we made it to the postseason, disappointed that I didn’t get to participate in the sense that I wanted to. I’m going to grind it out like I always do and work to make it happen next year.”