Gino Gradkowski: Pressure Mounts for New Baltimore Ravens Center

By jeffreykryglik
Mark J.Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens have had to replace nine starters heading into the 2013 NFL season, and one of them is at the center position.

Second-year center Gino Gradkowski — brother to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Bruce Gradkowski — assumed the role and earned the right to become the starting center of this football team by beating out former Indianapolis Colts center A.Q. Shipley.

Neither one of the two separated themselves significantly, but Shipley was clearly the lesser of the two throughout the preseason and during training camp, hence why Gradkowski won the job.

The 24-year-old is listed at 300 pounds, but plays like he’s about 290. If you haven’t figured out what I’m getting at here, it’s that he needs to get stronger because he has been dominated and stood up at the point of attack. It wouldn’t be as big a deal if the former Delaware Blue Hen would stand his ground and dig in, but he has been getting pancaked by defensive lineman when the role should be reversed.

Another thing to point out about Gradkowski is the communication factor. Yes, losing a veteran like Matt Birk to retirement hurts not because of what he offered the Ravens physically, but his presence and knowledge of the blocking schemes helped quarterback Joe Flacco set up protections and keep himself upright in passing situations.

Gradkowski has to pick that up and pick that up fast, as the Ravens will look to rely on him for a 16-game slate and then some, despite only having one start heading into 2013.

The Denver Broncos bring to the table one of the better front sevens in the league that will be without its leading pass-rushing specialist in Von Miller. Miller was suspended for the first six games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Still, Gradkowski and the rest of the offensive line should have a fairly even matchup — it’s just a matter of proving it at this stage of the game.

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