Ravens Activate 2-Way Lineman for Vikings Matchup

Ravens Kahlil McKenzie

Getty Baltimore Ravens lineman Kahlil McKenzie looks on during a 2021 preseason game.

The Baltimore Ravens have activated Reginald McKenzie from their practice squad for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, per the NFL’s official transaction report, giving them additional reinforcements on both the offensive and defensive line with one player.

The 6-foot-3, 320-pound McKenzie, who goes by his middle name Kahlil, is capable of playing both defensive tackle and offensive guard for the Ravens after he spent time training at both positions this season.

Not only does McKenzie’s activation provide the Ravens’ additional depth in the trenches on both sides of the ball, but it also gives Baltimore their eighth active offensive lineman, which they need to elevate two players from the practice squad, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.

McKenzie joined the Ravens’ practice squad back in September, as a defensive linemen and earned an elevation for the Ravens’ Week 3 matchup against the Detroit Lions, playing 15 snaps. He earned a 69.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, proving himself to be a reliable defensive tackle for Baltimore.

But McKenzie’s listing as a guard on the Ravens’ online roster, as well as his limited college and NFL experience on the offensive line, fueled speculation that McKenzie could cross-train to play on either side of the ball.

Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed in October that the Ravens would be trying out the 2018 sixth-round pick at guard, saying, “We’re going to start working him over there a little bit, cross-training him.”

“His dad obviously was a pretty fair offensive lineman,” added Harbaugh, who was likely talking about Kahlil McKenzie’s uncle, Raleigh McKenzie, who won two Super Bowls as an offensive lineman with the Washington Football Team.

Raleigh’s twin brother and Kahlil’s father, Reggie McKenzie, was a linebacker for the then-Los Angeles Raiders and later served as the franchise’s general manager after their move to Oakland.

Harbaugh added that Kahlil McKenzie’s father thinks his son would make a good offensive lineman, though it’s unclear if Harbaugh was talking about Raleigh or Reggie McKenzie.

Injuries Make McKenzie’s Versatility Valuable

McKenzie’s ability to play offensive and defensive line is extremely valuable for a Baltimore team that has suffered injuries to both units this season.

Though he was drafted as a defensive tackle out of the University of Tennessee, the Kansas City Chiefs attempted to convert McKenzie to offensive guard.

He’s spent his professional career shuffling between the two positions, playing guard in the XFL and defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals last season.

“He played already on the defensive line this year, so we might need him there,” noted Harbaugh.

With veteran defensive end Derek Wolfe still working his way back from injury, McKenzie could see some snaps on defense against the Vikings.

But with Patrick Mekari’s high ankle sprain likely forcing Week 1 starting left guard Tyre Phillips to right tackle, and rookie Ben Cleveland still sidelined, McKenzie will provide emergency depth at offensive guard as well.

Ravens Have History of 2-Way Players

While Major League Baseball’s Shohei Ohtani is the most prominent two-way professional athlete in the United States, Ravens fullback Patrick Ricard is the NFL’s most recent two-way football player.

Ricard signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2017 after spending four years as a defensive lineman at the University of Maine.

In his rookie season, Ricard played as a fullback for 149 snaps) and on the defensive line for 38 snaps, though his role in the then-Joe Flacco-led Baltimore offense was limited.

Even after the Ravens installed a run-heavy offense when Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback in 2018, Ricard saw a similar split of snaps, with 96 on offense and 47 on defense. His usage skyrocketed in 2019, with a greatly-expanded role on offense earning him 342 snaps along with 142 snaps on defense.

But Ricard hasn’t played on both sides of the ball since then, focusing on his duties as one of the NFL’s best fullbacks for the last two seasons while also contributing on special teams. He could likely still play defensive lineman in a pinch, but he’s far too good of a blocker to risk him getting injured while playing defense.