Ravens offensive lineman Patrick Mekari, who made the team as an undrafted free agent last year, didn’t get the full Marshal Yanda experience until the first game of the regular season in Miami Sept. 8.
Mekari, who played at Cal from 2015-2018, was fighting for a roster spot throughout the spring and summer while Yanda, at the time a seven-time Pro Bowler, could focus on preparing for the grind of 16-game season.
Mekari was one of two undrafted free agents to make the Ravens’ final 53-man roster along with linebacker Otaro Alaka. He began the year as a reserve offensive lineman, but he was still able to see Yanda shift into regular-season mode.
“Obviously, in the preseason he didn’t play. He’s kind of laying low during OTAs, just getting his body right for the season. I didn’t know him too well then. I’m like, ‘Oh, this guy’s kind of quiet. He’s a quiet guy,’” Mekari said on Glenn Clark Radio March 26. “And then we went to Miami for our first game and he’s losing his mind. And I’m like, ‘This is insane.’ I didn’t know he had this side to him, I had no idea. He’s just losing it. I’m like, ‘This is unbelievable for a guy in his 13th, 14th year to be this hyped and pumped up for his first game again.’ It was awesome.”
Mekari, who filled in as the starting center after Matt Skura got hurt in late November, got to play next to Yanda for parts of six games to close out the season. Yanda recently retired after 13 years with the Ravens, and he left a lasting impression on all of his teammates, particularly the offensive linemen.
Left guard Bradley Bozeman said Yanda was “the first guy I’ve actually wanted to be like or aspired to try to be.” Skura said Yanda taught him how to prepare and built up his confidence while projecting a sense of calmness. Mekari is no different in his admiration for Yanda.
“He’s had such an impact on me, on the team and even in ways that I don’t even know yet because I haven’t been there without him there, so it’s going to be really weird without him,” Mekari said. “I have the utmost respect for him. It was an unbelievable experience playing next to him. I remember watching his film in high school, just learning from him, watching him, admiring the way he plays and I was able to play next to him, which was unreal, which was a dream.”
Yanda’s productivity tended to be difficult to capture in real time at right guard, but the all-22 film never lied about Yanda.
Turns out, the rest of the Ravens’ offensive linemen saw things later that wowed them regarding Yanda, too.
“It’d happen a lot,” Mekari said. “There’s time in film that something would happen and we’re like, ‘Man, we didn’t even catch that on the field. Like, no one even saw it or talked about it.’ And it happened often. I’m talking like every week to every other week, so it was incredible.”
Without Yanda around, the Ravens are left with Ronnie Stanley at left tackle, Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle and Bozeman at left guard, with question marks at center and right guard. The Ravens have two capable centers on the roster in Skura and Mekari, but Skura is recovering from a devastating knee injury. The Ravens haven’t signed any offensive linemen in the early stages of free agency, but they figure to target the position in the draft.
At Cal, Mekari made 22 starts at left tackle and one apiece at right tackle and right guard. Combined with his experience at center last year, he’s played a little of everything since his college days. If the Ravens were to approach him about sliding over to guard, is that something he’d be up for?
“Whatever the team, whatever Coach asks me to do, that’s kind of what I want to do,” Mekari said. “I have no really preference as long as I’m helping and getting better at something. That’s what I want to do.”
For more from Mekari, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox