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Baltimore Ravens: Why the Team Should Bench Gino Gradkowski

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | For the 3-3 Baltimore Ravens, a change or two is going to need to be made in the starting lineup on both sides of the ball in order to turn things around for the struggling team.

The changes began when Eugene Monroe replaced Bryant McKinnie at left tackle, but the mix-ups shouldn't end with Monroe's arrival.

The Ravens are a team reeling toward a losing record with the bye week approaching, and another shakeup in the starting lineup could be just what is needed to right the ship in Baltimore.

One player the Ravens could benefit from benching is center Gino Gradkowski.

Now, this is much easier said than done. The center position is the most crucial aspect of an offense other than the quarterback.

Gradkowski is responsible for the blocking assignments along the offensive line, and he is expected to be on the same page with quarterback Joe Flacco.

But, neither of those things have been the case thus far, and Gradkowski has easily been the Ravens' worst player this season. In fact, Gradkowski's Pro Football Focus grade of -13.2 through six games is the second-worst in the NFL for qualifying centers.

His assumed replacement, A.Q. Shipley, has only seen action at left guard this season, when he filled in for an injured Kelechi Osemele against the Miami Dolphins.

Shipley struggled mightily in that game, but he was playing out of position. At center, Shipley can be a serviceable lineman, and even better than Gradkowski. Physically, it appears that Shipley is much farther along than Gradkowski, who is still growing into an NFL body.

The discrepancy between the two comes down to the mental aspect of the game. Gradkowski's miscommunications while leading the offensive line have severely held back the Baltimore offense this season, and it is unlikely Shipley could be any worse.

Perhaps after Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens could use the upcoming bye week to insert Shipley into the starting lineup.

At this point, if Gradkowski isn't going to progress any more this season, plugging in Shipley may not be such a bad idea.

Kyle Casey is a sports writer living in Baltimore, Md. He is a Baltimore Ravens writer for Russell Street Report and is the co-editor of Baltimore Ravens Draft.

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