Thursday, September 26, 2013

Guard Marshal Yanda A Perfect Fit For Ravens And Baltimore

By Joe Platania

September 26, 2013

OWINGS MILLS -- Marshal Yanda comes from Iowa, a long way from Baltimore's more urban setting and busier lifestyle.

But Yanda, a bearded, seventh-year right guard, has a no-nonsense-oriented work ethic, which has fit in well with a town and a team that doesn't believe in doing things pretty, only in doing them well.

Yanda has managed to shrug off and overcome obstacles placed in his way, including being drafted in relative third-round obscurity (86th overall) in 2007 and fighting through knee, ankle, chest, leg and shoulder injuries. His shoulder injury required offseason surgery and kept him off the field for most of this year's preseason period.

Despite those ailments, Yanda -- one of a league-high three rookies to start along the Ravens' offensive line in 2007 -- has put together consecutive-game streaks of 21 and 45 games during his career, the latter ending in December 2012, when he didn't take the field against Denver (ankle).

The second of those streaks could have ended earlier thanks to the chest and leg injuries, but Yanda fought through those to help the team clinch the 2011 AFC North Division title with a season-ending win at Cincinnati.

But it's no big deal to Yanda, for no matter how the Ravens may look during any given game, it's a given that Yanda -- who switched to right tackle in a pinch in 2010 because of Jared Gaither's training camp back injury -- won't have much of an extreme reaction either way. Check out these postgame quotes:

Following his 2013 preseason debut against Carolina Aug. 22: "I just try to go out there and do my part and help the team."

After the Ravens' sputtering win against Cleveland Sept. 15: "We said, just take it one play at a time."

Following the team's 30-9 victory against previously unbeaten Houston Sept. 22: "We did what we needed to do to win the game."

But it must be said that Yanda's blunt characterization of the team's offensive line play through three games is spot-on: rough.

Despite the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Yanda's presence, the Ravens are averaging 2.6 yards per carry, and only winless Jacksonville's 2.4-yard rate is worse. To be fair, the team has gone up against top 10 rush defense teams in top-ranked Denver, seventh-ranked Cleveland and ninth-ranked Houston.

But a reprieve may be in the offing Sept. 29, for the same can't be said for Buffalo, a squad tied for third worst in the league by virtue of allowing more than 150 rush yards per game.

"We're going to be able to run the ball here," head coach John Harbaugh said. "It is a part of our DNA. We have the people to do it. We've got some big, strong, tough offensive linemen, and we have really good backs. Our fullback, Vonta Leach, is the best blocking fullback in the league. The run game is something that has to happen for us."

Even though second-year left guard Kelechi Osemele has impressed leaguewide observers to the point that some consider the Osemele-Yanda tandem one of the NFL's best, the integration of Osemele and new center Gino Gradkowski could be part of the reason things have yet to mesh so far this year.

"He's still a young player," Yanda said of Osemele. "But he's a tough, nasty guy. … All five of us have to improve as a group. We want to excel together."

That's where Yanda's leadership, experience and effectiveness come in.

Yanda has not been charged with a penalty in 215 offensive snaps this year. Also, during six previous campaigns, he has been hit with seven total accepted holding calls and 14 false-start violations.

On top of that, in the world of the trenches, where post-whistle altercations can lead to even more penalties, Yanda has been tagged with just one 15-yard penalty during his career.

Such controlled effectiveness led to Yanda being one of the first Ravens guards to ever make the Pro Bowl in 2011. He repeated the feat last year, but naturally had to decline the invitation because he and his teammates were busy preparing for the Super Bowl.

For Yanda, preparation merely means reinforcing those qualities that have made him one of the league's best.

"It's a combination of speed and power, quickness, the ability to stop bull rushes," Yanda said of his technique.

Given the laid-back way he acts off the field -- not to mention his no-frills way on it -- stopping bull is something at which Yanda excels.

And fans in Baltimore can't help but love him for it.

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