Still Time To Let Things Play Out With Ravens O-Line


The Ravens have a number of questions along their offensive line.

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie missed the first week of training camp with a personal issue, reportedly lower back pain after he slipped and fell at home. Michael Oher is moving from the right to left side. There is no definite starter to replace Pro Bowler Ben Grubbs. Rookie Kelechi Osemele is playing new positions. Potential right tackles Jah Reid and Ramon Harewood have yet to get on the practice field because of injuries.

Despite the uncertainty, the Ravens aren't panicking.

"The season is not tomorrow," Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron said. "You just let things play out."

Having questions with the line at the outset of training camp is nothing new for the Ravens.

Last year they signed McKinnie just two weeks before the regular season and he went on to start every game at left tackle.

In 2010, left tackle Jared Gaither was injured throughout training camp, so the Ravens shifted Oher to the blindside. Marshal Yanda then took over as the starting right tackle and Oher played left tackle the entire season.

And as the offensive line appears to be the biggest area of concern heading into the 2012 season, the Ravens have been down this road before. 

"I can't remember a training camp where the offensive line has ever been set early on," Cameron said.

The Ravens currently have 17 linemen on the 90-man roster. They will likely end up cutting about half of that group, making those position battles some of the most intriguing over the next month. 

"We are just going to let this thing evolve," Cameron said. "You are only going to keep about nine or so guys on your roster and you're only going to have seven active. You want to keep as much competition as you can."

The clear-cut starters are Matt Birk at center and Yanda at right guard. Veteran free-agent pickup Bobbie Williams appears to have a lead in the battle for left guard and Oher will start at right or left tackle, depending on what happens with McKinnie.

McKinnie is planning to report to training camp on Monday, and says that he is ready to play.

Osemele, the team's second-round pick, has worked at both right tackle and left guard. He played left tackle in college, so both positions are new to him, but the Ravens have high hopes that he could step in and play right away even if they aren't ready to name him a starter just yet.

"It's probably a little premature to make any statements along those lines," Cameron said when asked if Osemele could start at right tackle. "We drafted him for a reason. We were jumping up and down when he was still on the board. So, we will just let it play out, but obviously, we think he's going to be a really good player."

Osemele's role could depend on where Oher ends up playing.

Oher has not played left tackle since that 2010 season, but Head Coach John Harbaugh said last week that the team has always viewed the former first-round pick as a left tackle.

Oher struggled at times during his one season on the left side, but Offensive Line Coach Andy Moeller thinks that he's now better prepared for the job.

"He already has a year under his belt over there," Moeller said. "He knows the personnel he is going against."

He is a great, versatile football player, and you just line him up and let him go. He'll be fine on the left side; he'll be great."

And in terms of McKinnie, the Ravens are taking a wait-and-see approach, while also getting a backup plan in place if he ends up missing significant time. "Nobody is worried about it," Cameron said. "It will play out the way it should play out, and we will be ready either way."

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