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Rick Wagner Confident, But Expects Competition


If the season started today, Rick Wagner would be the Ravens' starting right tackle.

The fifth-round pick from Wisconsin is entering his second NFL season, and has an opportunity over the next few months to convince the coaching staff he's deserving of a starting job for the long haul.

"I'm excited about it [add]. I definitely have confidence," Wagner said just before the Ravens open Organized Team Activities (OTAs). "We'll just keep going and hopefully I'll be starting."

Wagner was used as a reserve lineman and extra blocker during his rookie season, but he displayed enough potential for the Ravens to pencil him into the starting lineup when right tackle Michael Oher departed in free agency.

Many people – including Wagner – expected the Ravens to draft another player to compete for the job, but the team ended up not using any of its eight draft picks on a tackle.

"I was probably expecting them to pick a tackle – I didn't know where or when," Wagner said. "No matter if they took a tackle or not, I knew there was going to be good competition. If they bring in a guy or whatever, there is going to be good competition no matter what happens in the draft."

The Ravens have left open the door for bringing in another tackle before the season, as General Manager Ozzie Newsome said after the draft "we're not done as far as building this football team."

But Newsome also emphasized his confidence in Wagner, and the desire to see him take on a larger role during his second season.

"We've got these young guys [Wagner and fellow offensive lineman Ryan Jensen], and we need to give these young guys a chance," Newsome said. "I think guys should fail on the field, so we're going to give these guys the opportunity to fail on the field. That way we know whether they can [play] or not. But we feel real good about them."

The significant focus for Wagner this offseason has been making the move to right tackle, which he has not played since his sophomore year in college before moving to the left side for his junior and senior seasons. He trained at Wisconsin during the first few months of the offseason and spent much of that time focusing on the footwork for the right side of the line.

He has been working out in Baltimore since the voluntary conditioning program started in mid-April.

"I feel very comfortable now and ready for OTAs," Wagner said about playing on the right side.

The other component for Wagner and the rest of the offense is learning a different scheme under new Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak. Establishing the run is a critical piece of Kubiak's system, and Wagner excelled in that role during his career at Wisconsin. 

The development of the offensive line will draw plenty of attention over the next several months, as the unit is still in flux depending on what the coaches decide to do with Kelechi Osemele. He could start at left guard or right tackle based on how Wagner performs. The other player in the mix for a spot is fourth-year lineman Jah Reid.

"There's no guarantee," Wagner said. "There's always someone coming for you, and I think it's good to have good competition because it brings out the best."

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