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Ravens considering starting NFL's first all-rookie left side of line in 21 years

First-round pick Ronnie Stanley could have rookie teammate Alex Lewis starting next to him when the Ravens open the regular season. Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens are contemplating about going with a rookie tandem to protect Joe Flacco's blindside.

Coach John Harbaugh doesn't consider it a risk, but it is unusual.

If rookie fourth-round pick Alex Lewis begins the season next to No. 6 overall pick Ronnie Stanley, it will mark the first time since 1995 that a team starts rookies at left guard and tackle in a season opener, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. That's before the Ravens existed, and well before Stanley and Lewis were in kindergarten.

Baltimore was going to start John Urschel at left guard, but a contusion has sidelined him since the preseason opener on Aug. 12. In his place, Lewis has not just held his own. He has been impressive.

Does Lewis' play and Urschel's missed practice time make the decision on which player to start at left guard more complicated?

"That is a great question," coach John Harbaugh said. "We probably are considering that right now, but we haven't had that discussion yet, just because John hasn’t been out there. That is something we have to consider.”

Stanley, the first offensive lineman taken in this year's draft, has been among the NFL's most impressive rookies this preseason. In three games at left tackle he has allowed one quarterback pressure but no sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.

The drama is at left guard, where Urschel could be close to returning. He worked with offensive line coach Juan Castillo on the field after the last two practices.

But Urschel's best position is center, not guard. Lewis has provided a physical presence in the interior and has fit in well with the starters, which has drawn praise from Harbaugh.

"I really was impressed, really impressed," Harbaugh said when asked about Lewis' performance in Saturday's preseason game.

The last time a team started a rookie at left guard and tackle was the 1995 Carolina Panthers, and the Ravens can only hope they have more success. With Blake Brockermeyer at left tackle and Andrew Peterson at left guard, the Panthers watched quarterback Frank Reich get sacked nine times in the opener. The Brockermeyer-Peterson pairing lasted only one more game.

To put this in perspective, Lewis was 3 at that time and Stanley was 18 months old. Now they could be in charge of blocking for Flacco, who is coming off season-ending knee surgery.

"Mine and Ronnie's chemistry is always building," Lewis said. "Every play, every rep ... it is always building. We are not to the point yet where we can read each other's mind or anything like that, but hopefully one day we can get there."

If the Ravens go with Urschel at left guard, they are sticking with a lineman who has 12 starts in two seasons, including two in the postseason. If Baltimore chooses Lewis, it's a big compliment for Lewis that he was selected over more experienced blockers such as Urschel, Ryan Jensen and Vladimir Ducasse.

"He made a few mistakes. But he is a quick learner," Harbaugh said of Lewis. "When he makes a mistake, he adjusts quickly and doesn’t make it twice. The same thing for Ronnie; I think you would say the same thing. Those guys are really on the same trajectory in a way.”