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Kelechi Osemele Auditioning To Be Ravens' Long-Term Left Tackle


As Head Coach John Harbaugh said, the Ravens moved Kelechi Osemele from left guard to left tackle Sunday against the Seahawks because they wanted to get their best five offensive linemen on the field.

But the move could lead to much more.

After making his first NFL start at left tackle, Osemele said he's looking at it as an audition to be the Ravens' blindside anchor of the present and future.

"I'd definitely love to be the guy [at left tackle] for the Ravens and into the future as long as I can keep performing at a high level," Osemele said.

"It's my fourth year in the league now, so I feel like I can handle that responsibility. I'll just keep working at it and I'll get better at it. I'd love to play left tackle in the league."

Left tackle Eugene Monroe has struggled to stay on the field the past two years since signing a five-year deal before the 2014 season, casting doubt over his future with the team.

On Saturday, Monroe was placed on injured reserve (shoulder) after sitting out the past two contests. He will have missed 17 games over the past two seasons.

Meanwhile, Osemele has been a talented and reliable mauler on the Ravens offensive line for the past four years. He missed nine games in 2013 with a back injury, but has otherwise sat out just four games in three other seasons.

Osemele is in the final year of his rookie contract and could command a big payday in free agency. If the Ravens see him as their left tackle of the future, that could increase the chances of that payday coming in Baltimore.

Monroe said he's had conversations about his future with General Manager Ozzie Newsome, but didn't want to share the details. Osemele was asked whether he's trying to show Newsome that the team should re-sign him to be the left tackle.

"The thought has definitely crossed my mind," Osemele said with a laugh. "That's the approach I'm taking to it, mentally."

Playing left tackle isn't totally foreign to Osemele. It's the position he played throughout college at Iowa State before becoming a second-round pick of the Ravens in 2012.

Osemele played right tackle for the Ravens during his rookie season before being moved inside to left guard during the team's Super Bowl XLVII run. He said he preferred guard because it allowed him to showcase his brute strength and physicality.

But after James Hurst had trouble in pass protection in recent weeks, Newsome and Head Coach John Harbaugh came to Osemele to get his thoughts on playing left tackle.

"Yeah, it threw me off a little bit," Osemele said. "I wouldn't say I was shocked. This is the NFL and it's not the first time I've been moved around. Initially, when I was leaving college, I thought I was going to be a tackle."

Osemele said he studied this week more than he ever has before. He also started to get his body ready for different kinds of movements and practiced at left tackle throughout the week.

After the game, Osemele said it's a lot different than playing guard.

"You've got to think about where you're lining up, the ref's yelling at you to back up. There's just a lot of stuff going on out there. It's more difficult," he said.

"You're not just in a phone booth. It's more technique, it's more finesse, the guys are more athletic. There's not really much you can do on the inside, you're there and it's contact. Out there, it's different."

So how did Osemele do in his first start?

Ravens quarterback Jimmy Clausen was sacked just once, though the pressure often didn't come from his blindside. The Ravens struggled to get the ground attack going, as they had 14 runs for just 28 yards. Baltimore had Ryan Jensen at left guard in place of Osemele and John Urschel starting at center without Jeremy Zuttah (shoulder – injured reserve).

Both Harbaugh and Osemele had trouble saying how it went without seeing the tape.

"I didn't see anything that was obviously not good," Harbaugh said. "I think he can be a left tackle; he has played left tackle in college for four or five years. We'll see how it looks."

Osemele had one major takeaway. He had fun.

"It had been a while. We'll see what the future holds, but for now it's the position I'm playing and I'm going to have fun with it," he said.

"You never really know what to expect and what moves they're going to give you because they can do so much when you're on an island. So the challenge of it is what's really exciting."

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