Monday, January 26, 2015

Marshal Yanda punching his ticket to Pro Football Hall of Fame

Feb 3, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda (73) celebrates after defeating the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

by Shawn Brubaker

January 24, 2015

I’ve heard fans discuss Terrell Suggs Hall of Fame Candidacy. Same for Joe Flacco and Haloti Ngata. A guy absent from those conversations?
Marshal Yanda. That’s a shame, as he needs just a few more years of All-Pro level play to make a serious run at the Hall.

2014 was the season that sealed this for me. In the past, Yanda was undoubtedly a consistent Pro Bowler, often an All-Pro, but his name was lost in a sea of highly regarded left tackles.

To make it to the Hall as an interior lineman, a player has to be the best lineman in the game. This was the year Yanda ascended to that level, and this is the year Yanda established himself as a future Hall of Famer.

Let’s go over his credentials: a four-time All-Pro, a four-time Pro Bowler (which doesn’t mean much seeing as Andy Dalton has made it twice), a Super Bowl champion, a blocker for three different 1,000 yard backs (Willis McGahee, Ray Rice, Justin Forsett) and winner of Pro Football Focus’ 2014 Bruce Matthews Award, awarded to the best lineman in football.

Statistically, Yanda has helped pave the way for two years of 2,000-plus yard team rushing performances in his career, and only once in Yanda’s career have the Ravens not averaged over 100 rushing yards per game. Since his rookie year, Yanda has been among the best run blockers in the league.

Pro Football Focus has recognized him as a top-five player at his position in five of his eight years, and in 2014, PFF graded him as the top lineman in football.

Those are impressive credentials. With a few more years of continued success, Yanda would easily have Hall of Fame credentials. But awards don’t capture what makes Yanda so special.

Attitude and work ethic set Yanda apart from bigger, quicker and stronger linemen. His attitude sets the tone for the entire Ravens’ offense: workmanlike, aggressive and confident. In essence, Yanda has the perfect mental makeup for an interior lineman.

Physically, Yanda packs a lot of strength and athleticism into his 6’3″, 305 pound frame. That’s relatively small for a guard, yet Yanda physically dominates most of his matchups.

His versatility also sets him apart. Yanda is the best guard in the game and one of the best right tackles in the game. How many players can say that?

Yanda will turn 31 this year and presumably has at least four good years left. Interior linemen often last well into their 30s, and Yanda’s technical skill and work ethic should help him stick around even longer than average.

If that happens, and Yanda maintains a high level of play for the next four or five years, he is a lock for the Hall.

Though Ravens fans have long respected Yanda, he doesn’t get the press of some other, louder personalities. That should change. The time has come to recognize Yanda as what he is, a legendary player and a future Hall of Famer.

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