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The Competition: Guards and Centers


In the coming weeks, will offer previews of each position, focusing on who will be in the thick of the competition come training camp. Today, the interior offensive line takes the spotlight.

It's going to be an interesting shakeout inside the Ravens' offensive line this offseason, where the players are not only getting acquainted with a new set of coaches, but they've also been given new positions.

Baltimore has a deep quarry of guards and centers that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has mixed and matched to find a perfect balance. After a long run of minicamps and Organized Team Activities (OTAs), Cameron thinks he's found his best grouping, beginning with Jason Brown's move from left guard to center.

When the Ravens released longtime starter Mike Flynn in February, just who would fill in at center was not immediately known. Brown was an All-ACC center at the University of North Carolina, while Chris Chester was being groomed as a potential Flynn replacement since he was drafted in 2006.

Even Marshal Yanda, who spent all of 2007 at right tackle, was snapping the football in early practices.

In the end, Brown won out, despite a breakout performance starting all 16 games next to Pro Bowl left tackle Jonathan Ogden.

Cameron is confident the fourth-round draft pick - the most-experienced prospect in the offensive line's meeting room - will assume a more vocal role in his fourth campaign.

"Number one, he's a great leader," Cameron said. "It's an easier transition than you might think because that's the position he played in college. We felt like it was natural to move him back, because the center is the leader of your offensive line. That's just the way it works."

Moving out from Brown, the Ravens seem to have settled on Ben Grubbs and Yanda for their guards, a departure from what both were doing last season as rookies.

Grubbs shifts from the right to the left side, where he logged 38 consecutive starts for Auburn. Yanda moves inside after manning right tackle for 12 contests last year.

The Ravens are counting on Chester to provide depth behind Brown, while David Hale, a tackle from Baltimore's most-recent draft class, could support the guard position.

Additionally, the Ravens bolstered the unit by signing former New York Jet Adrien Clarke and rookie free agents Isaiah Wiggins and Adam Kraus.

In an AFC North loaded with stout run-stuffers and elite middle linebackers, Baltimore's core must be just as strong. Even if that core is young, it is versatile and eager to learn on the job.

Here is a breakdown of the interior offensive linemen on the Ravens' roster:

G/C - Jason Brown

2007: Brown was an absolute rock along the Ravens' offensive line, as the only member to start all 16 games. As personnel constantly shifted around him because of various injuries to the unit, Brown managed to stand out, even earning recognition on some pundits' postseason awards ballots.

Forecast: He may have been developing as a guard, but Brown enters training camp with the center position firmly in grasp. He will continue his growth as the keystone of the line.

G - Ben Grubbs

2007:The Ravens drafted Grubbs 29th overall, and he didn't disappoint. He started 12 of 16 games, appearing in the full slate. Grubbs' performance earned him a spot on the PFW/PFWA All-Rookie Team.

Forecast:Flipping sides shouldn't be much of a problem for Grubbs, who came out of Auburn an accomplished left guard. The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder was playing with the first-team for the entire offseason.

G/T - Marshal Yanda

2007:A mauler with a tough-as-nails mentality, Yanda got his initial chance when Adam Terry was forced to left tackle for an injured Ogden. In all, Yanda got 12 starts, valuable time to any rookie.

Forecast:Yanda has always been a versatile player. Playing two years at Iowa, Yanda started games at right and left tackle, beginning his collegiate career as a left guard. By all accounts, his transition to right guard has been smooth in the offseason.

G/C - Chris Chester

2007:Chester was the starting right guard for the first four games before Flynn's knee ailments moved him to the bench in case he was called in to sub at center. As a center, he started the Ravens' Week 6 matchup.

Forecast:A former tight end at Oklahoma, Chester's ability to play all three interior spots is invaluable to the Ravens. He will undoubtedly get called on at some point during the upcoming season as he continues to mature.

G/T - David Hale

2007:Hale played in 44 career games at Weber State, starting 36 straight at right tackle. As a senior, his offensive line only allowed 12 sacks in 11 games, en route to Hale being named first-team All-Big Sky Conference. He also helped pave the way for a 1,000-yard season from running back Trevyn Smith.

Forecast:Despite his tenure at right tackle, Hale is getting a lot of looks at guard, something the Ravens envisioned when he was picked 133rd overall. Hale's maturity - he is 25 years old - and nasty temperament have already impressed coaches.

G - Adrien Clarke

2007:Clarke started 14 contests for a banged-up Jets offensive line. Previous to that, he was a seventh-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, where he stayed for two seasons before taking a year off from football in 2006.

Forecast:Clarke brings experience at the highest level, a trait that could help him stand out among the masses. At 6-foot-5, 330 pounds, he has the size to excel, but must be a constant performer in training camp to earn a roster spot. Clarke signed with the Ravens on May 15, 2008.

G - Isaiah Wiggins, G - Adam Kraus

2007:Wiggins ended his career at Illinois State as an All-Gateway Conference first-teamer, contributing to a line that racked up 2,194 rushing yards, topping the 2,000-yard mark for the third straight year. Kraus excelled at Michigan under current Ravens assistant offensive line coach Andy Moeller. The 6-foot-6, 295-pound guard earned All-Big Ten honors for the second consecutive year, starting all 13 games.

Forecast:In a crowded pool of interior linemen, both Wiggins and Kraus are swimming against the tide. But, if they can show solid blocking skills when they do get their chances on offense and special teams, there may be an available spot on the practice squad with the potential to move up.

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