New Ravens offensive lineman D.J. Fluker, who recently agreed to a one-year deal with Baltimore shortly after being released by the Seattle Seahawks, knows no one can truly replace retired legend Marshal Yanda, but he thinks he’s a perfect fit in the Ravens’ run-first offense.
Fluker, 29, is one of a few moves Baltimore has made to give itself some options to fill in for Yanda at right guard. The Ravens also drafted Mississippi State tackle Tyre Phillips and Michigan guard Ben Bredeson in April. Guard Ben Powers, drafted out of Oklahoma last year, will also compete in camp, but played in just one game in 2019.
Yanda, who retired in March after a 13-year career in Baltimore, earned eight Pro Bowl nods, seven Associated Press All-Pro honors and a Super Bowl ring. A spot in the Ravens Ring of Honor is certainly in the cards for Yanda, and quite possibly a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is as well.
Fluker, a seven-year veteran, knows what Yanda meant to the Ravens.
“There’s no really replacing Marshal Yanda,” Fluker said on Glenn Clark Radio May 1. “He’s a great player. I watched him a couple years. He’s been solid. That’s a hard guy to follow, but all I can do is go in there and compete and be myself. Hopefully that’s enough for me and the team and we’re going to win ballgames.”
For the 6-foot-4, 345-pound Fluker, being himself means bringing a lot of physicality to the table – a perfect fit in Baltimore. Last year, the Ravens rushed for 3,296 yards, the top single-season mark in league history. They did it on 596 carries, easily the most in the league in 2019.
The Ravens’ top four rushers from a year ago — quarterback Lamar Jackson and running backs Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill — are all scheduled to return in 2020, and they drafted Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins in the second round. Baltimore figures to continue to lean on the running game in 2020 despite the loss of Yanda, and that’s right up Fluker’s alley.
“I love being physical. That’s part of my game. That brings out the best in me,” Fluker said. “That brings out my best abilities in me to provide holes for the running back, holes for the quarterback, being able to let a D-lineman know that, ‘Hey, I’m coming for you every single play.’”
“Football is the only sport that I can play and not go to jail for literally knocking somebody out,” he added with a laugh. “Come on, I’m just saying, right? Let’s keep your eye on this, now.”
Fluker was taken by the then-San Diego Chargers with the 11th overall pick out of Alabama in 2013. He played for the Chargers from 2013-2016 before moving on to the New York Giants (2017) and Seattle Seahawks (2018-2019). Last year, he played 14 games at right guard for the Seahawks, but missed their game with the Ravens in October due to a hamstring injury.
Fluker’s time in Seattle should help prepare him for what’s to come in Baltimore. The Seahawks were third in the NFL in rushing attempts (481) and fourth in rushing offense (2,200 yards). With the Ravens, Fluker potentially fits in along the offensive line with tackles Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr., left guard Bradley Bozeman and perhaps Matt Skura at center depending on his health.
“I think Russell Wilson and that offensive staff over there, they kind of prepared me to be in that type of offense and that type of predicament — running and being physical,” Fluker said. “Coming in here, I’m going to add that same physicality. I mean, they’ve got a big offensive line. I may not be the biggest guy there, but it’s all about being physical and being able to run the ball downhill.”
To hear more from Fluker, including his thoughts on Madden, crabs and cars, listen to the full interview here: