Thursday, July 31, 2008

Versatile Yanda ready for any job

By Ryan Chell

July 31, 2008

Over the past several practices, both of the Baltimore Ravens’ starting offensive tackles, Jared Gaither and Adam Terry, have been sidelined with sprained ankles.

This development makes the Ravens really thankful they have starting right offensive guard like Marshal Yanda.

The second-year offensive lineman out of Iowa has been a godsend for the Ravens offense, due to the fact that he brings versatility and security to the offensive line.

“Marshal is great,” Ravens assistant offensive line coach Andy Moeller said. “To have that kind of versatility, it’s a great asset.”

Yanda can take the place of two or three roster spots and plays every position on the line, making the personnel department’s job that much easier. However, he is most known for his prowess at tackle, a position he started a dozen games as a rookie last season.

“It helps just in case I need to play tackle, I can,” Yanda said. “I can take some snaps at center too. I can play more positions so we don’t need as many guys.”

Who knows? With injuries to Gaither and Terry over the past several days, it could mean a return to the guard position for Yanda.

“That’s a decision Cam Cameron, John Matsko, the rest of our staff, will have to see about as we go along,” Moeller said. “That’s certainly a possibility.”

Ravens offensive line coach John Matsko may already be ready to pull the switch and make the change.

“He’s really adapting well to the right guard spot, and boy, you watch the tapes and he did a really good job at right tackle last year,” Matsko said. “Everything’s possible.”

Yanda started last year after being selected in the third round of the draft, and getting that experience has definitely helped ease the learning process for him going into his sophomore campaign.

“I wouldn’t say this was easier,” Yanda said. “But I know what to expect, how the game system works, what the practice tempo needs to be like, and just what I need to get done.”

During the offseason, despite Yanda’s excellence at tackle last season and his reputation as a sound tackle at Iowa, the Ravens coaching staff saw Yanda as a better fit at the guard position.

He was asked to gain a little more weight to fit into the position, something he felt was necessary to properly make the adjustment, while still being able to keep his quickness.

Many are applauding the switch, such as starting defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who lines up across from him in practice. Ngata praised Yanda’s performance.
Yanda has no complaints about the switch, either.

“There’s no position I prefer,” Yanda said. “I’m at guard now. I love it, and that’s where I want to be. If they want to move me back to tackle, that doesn’t matter. I’ll play anywhere.”

With the difficulty of learning several positions at once, the learning curve would appear to increase for Yanda, but so far he is handling it well.

“It can be difficult,” he acknowledged. “But as long as you keep an open mind when we’re in the meeting rooms and don’t just focus on guard, you get an idea of what everyone’s doing and it’s not as bad.”

Yanda has a calm demeanor off the field, and talked about not worrying about Cameron’s new system or who he is protecting at quarterback.

What makes him a better offensive lineman is how he can make that transformation so easily and use it to his advantage.

“For an offensive lineman, you have to be physical,” Yanda said. “You’ve got to want it, go out there, and get after somebody, and hit them in the mouth, that’s the way you got to be.”

Not only does he seem to be settling into a new position, he seems to be settling into the team.

Yanda remembers what Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, a former Ravens offensive line coach, told him when he was drafted by Baltimore.

“He told me you’re going to a good place, that you’re going to excel there, and you’ll like the people there,” Yanda said. “It’s a good program.”

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