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The Competition 2014: Guard/Centers

Posted Jul 8, 2014

The Ravens have expected starters at center and both guard spots, but the backups are more in question.


“The Competition” is a series that breaks down every Ravens position battle leading up to training camp.

Returning Players

Marshal Yanda (6-foot-3, 305, eighth season)

The Ravens right guard is the leader of the offensive line and one of the league’s most dominating players at his position. Yanda is fully healthy this year after recovering from shoulder surgery in the early part of last season, and is expected to be one of the team’s most reliable players. Yanda made his third straight Pro Bowl last year despite coming off shoulder surgery, and the expectation is that he could be even better in 2014.

Kelechi Osemele (6-5, 330, third season)

Osemele is back to full strength after a back injury ended his 2013 season seven games into the year. Osemele had surgery to repair a problem that had bothered him since college, and impressed the coaching staff during offseason practices. Osemele is on target to become the starting left guard, and his return could make a big difference for the line.

A.Q. Shipley (6-1, 309, fourth season)

Shipley has worked mostly as a reserve this offseason, taking reps at both guard spots. Shipley took over the starting left guard spot last season with Osemele out, which was a new position for him. Shipley can play center or guard, making him a valuable asset as a reserve.

Gino Gradkowski (6-3, 300, third season)

Gradkowski started all 16 games at center last season, and went through growing pains in his first season as a starter. Since the Ravens acquired Jeremy Zuttah in a trade this offseason, Gradkowski has primarily worked with the second-team offense. He will push Zuttah for time, but the expectation is that Gradkowski will be a backup this year.

Ryan Jensen (6-4, 318, second season)

The second-year lineman out of Colorado State-Pueblo is an intriguing prospect who can play all five positions on the offensive line. He worked at guard and tackle during the offseason practices, and the Ravens would like to lock him down to a specific position for training camp. The Ravens like Jensen’s potential and he could end up being an important reserve along the offensive front.

Jah Reid, (6-7, 340, fourth season)

Training camp will be critical for Reid, who missed all of the offseason practices with a strained calf. Reid, a former third-round pick, has struggled with injuries throughout his career. He can play guard or tackle, and the Ravens could move him around the line based on need. Reid is heading into the final year of his rookie deal, and the next month will be critical for him to show he’s deserving of a spot.

Reggie Stephens (6-3, 325, second season)

Stephens is a natural center who was on the practice squad last season. He has familiarity with the system, but he faces an uphill climb to win a job because of the tight competition ahead of him.

New Additions

Jeremy Zuttah (6-4, 308, seventh season)

The Ravens acquired Zuttah from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a 2015 fifth-round draft pick. The expectation is for Zuttah to be the starting center this season and for several years to come. The seven-year veteran is a smart player who is a natural fit in Gary Kubiak’s blocking schemes, and the Ravens hope he will play a key role in improving the overall performance of the unit. 

Will Rackley (6-3, 310, fourth season)

The Ravens signed Rackley this offseason after he was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He started 11 games at left guard last year before a concussion landed him on injured reserve. He also started 14 games in 2011, but missed the entire 2012 season with an ankle injury. Rackley has the experience to be a viable option on the line, and the Ravens are hoping to unlock some of his potential

Rookies

John Urschel (6-3, 313)

The Ravens drafted the Penn State product in the fifth round of this year’s draft, and he will provide depth at center and both guard spots. Urschel will likely be a reserve this season, as the Ravens try to develop him for future years.

Frontrunners

The starting jobs on the interior of the offensive line are likely set, as long as the Ravens can avoid serious injuries during training camp and the preseason. Yanda and Zuttah are likely locks to start at right guard and center, respectively, and Osemele is in line for the left guard job. The only uncertainly with Osemele is whether he gets pushed out to right tackle, where he played his rookie season. Second-year lineman Rick Wagner is currently in line to start at right tackle, but Osemele could move outside if Wagner isn’t ready for the job. With Osemele, Zuttah and Yanda in the starting lineup, the unit is already expected to be improved from last season.

A big question on the interior of the line is how many players the Ravens end up keeping. Gradkowski, Shipley, Reid and Jensen were all on the 53-man roster last season, but the additions of Zuttah, Rackley and Urschel make for much tighter competition. The Ravens usually keep between seven and nine lineman, and that final number will depend on what happens at other positions. If the Ravens end up having too many quality offensive lineman and not enough spots, they could look to deal one of those players in a trade during the preseason.

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