It’s not easy to adapt to new things when you’re going up against the highest level of competition every day. Even if it’s something so many erroneously view as ‘small’ like a lineman moving from the left side to the right, or vice versa, it’s probably going to take some time to adjust to doing that.
For former Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, there were some growing pains as he made the shift to the right side after signing with the Baltimore Ravens as a free agent this offseason. He had to play on the right side—they have a $100 million investment in left tackle Ronnie Stanley, after all.
But according to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic, he’s getting through now. He recently had a great day of practice working against the Ravens’ pass rushers, which now includes Justin Houston, after struggling earlier, most notably with rookie first-round pick Odafe Oweh.
“He won back-to-back one-on-one reps against Pernell McPhee, getting the veteran outside linebacker to the ground and landing on him on the first one”, Zrebiec wrote in a recent training camp report. “He kept the Ravens’ outside linebackers mostly in check during the team drills, too”.
Zrebiec would also write a day later that Villanueva and McPhee have had a lot of good battles going back and forth throughout training camp, and that it has been fun to watch them go at it every play, “and then finish the rep with a respectful tap for one another”.
As everyone reading this likely knows, Villanueva spent the past seven years of his life as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization. He had been their starting left tackle for most of the past six years, and even made the Pro Bowl twice.
But as he told reporters when he first signed with the Ravens after the draft, Pittsburgh let him know early on in the process that they did not plan to re-sign him—basically, they wouldn’t be able to afford it and do the other things they wanted to do.
He did end up signing a two-year, $14 million contract with Baltimore, taking over for Orlando Brown Jr., who requested a trade and had it granted earlier this offseason, because he didn’t want to be stuck playing right tackle.
At this stage of his career, Villanueva didn’t have the option of being so picky. Nobody even wanted to sign him until he would no longer factor into their compensatory pick formula, nevermind trading for him, or opening up the left side of the line for him.
It’s worth noting that Baltimore also later signed Ja’Wuan James, who tore his Achilles in May. They haven’t ruled out the possibility that he could play by the end of this season, though the two-year deal was really centered around next season.