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The Competition:Tackles


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 tackles take the spotlight.


Replacing Jonathan Ogden at left tackle is no small task, but the Ravens think they have the size to do it in Jared Gaither.

Both are 6-foot-9. Both have 350 pounds packed onto their hulking frames.

And while Ogden recently retired from a Hall of Fame career and 11 consecutive Pro Bowls, Gaither's athleticism and newfound dedication has led to promising talks around Owings Mills.

"Jared Gaither has jumped into left tackle," said head coach John Harbaugh during a minicamp in June. "He's young; he's not J.O., by any stretch. But, he's had a chance to watch J.O. for a year, and he's got some of the same kind of skill set that J.O. has.

"He's got a long way to go to become a great offensive tackle in this league, but we're really pleased with his progress."

It's not as if the Ravens weren't necessarily waiting on pins and needles to hear of Ogden's decision. The 12-year veteran spent the entire offseason at his home in Las Vegas and strongly hinted that the team should continue operating as if he wouldn't return.

That meant that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and offensive line coach John Matsko were able to work with Gaither at left tackle early, with Adam Terry on the right side.

Cameron is looking forward to monitoring Gaither's progress in training camp, not as much regarding the second-year player's on-field successes, but more for his missteps.

"The grind at training camp is where you make the left tackles," Cameron said. "You really don't find out about your left tackles until they give up a sack or two. Once they do that, you've got to find out how they bounce back. A left tackle has to have a little bit of a short memory. He's got to move on, because we're not going to take him out, and we're not going to move him onto the right side.

"We're going to learn a lot about him."

With the Ravens' offensive line moving forward on the cornerstones of Gaither and Terry, here is a breakdown of the other players in competition at tackle:

2007:Terry was solid last year before a pesky ankle injury severely limited him over the last quarter of the season. Switching between starts at both left and right tackle - and even tight end - it may have been difficult to establish a rhythm. Nevertheless, Terry earned his stripes as a legitimate NFL starter no matter what side he was on.

Forecast:After surgery on his ankle early soon after the season finale, Terry was limited in offseason workouts, even if he was a regular participant. He was held out of some minicamps, but worked his way back onto the field near the end of the offseason. He expects to be full-strength by training camp.

2007:The former supplemental draft pick stepped in to six games as a rookie, starting two. He was a pleasant surprise filling in because of injuries to Ogden and Terry at left tackle.

Forecast:He's been given the reins, which obviously has improved his dedication to doing all the things it takes to prepare for a strong season. Much will be known once the first preseason game rolls around.

2007:The 6-foot-8, 337-pound Kracalik saw action in two games, serving the rest of the year on the practice squad.

Forecast:Kracalik has been starting at both left an right tackle during minicamps when Gaither had migraines and Terry's ankle was too sore. And, Cameron has been vocal about his improvement, so expect Kracalik to get every chance to earn a roster spot this year.

2007:The third-round draft pick was a first-team All-Conference USA selection and Super Sleeper pick by the NFL Draft Report in his final year for the Miners, starting all 12 games at right tackle. He was an integral part of an offensive line that helped UTEP to average 422.9 total yards and 33.6 points per game (26th nationally), including tying a school record with 40-plus points in five games

Forecast:Cousins has versatility to play both tackle spots, but the Ravens have been slotting him exclusively on the right side. His toughness and grit showed up in two minicamp scraps, which could be an asset once the doldrums of training camp come.

2007:Dumford started all 12 contests as a senior at Eastern Kentucky and earned first-team All-Conference for the fourth-consecutive year.

Forecast:At 6-foot-5, 293 pounds, Dumford could hit the cafeteria to add some weight, but he has looked good in the limited opportunities he's gotten during the offseason. He'll have to make an impact on special teams and in the late preseason to open the coaches' eyes.

2007:Reitz is rejoining football after starring for Western Michigan's basketball team as an All-Conference center.

Forecast:He may be raw and have to add size to his 260-pounds, but Reitz has the footwork and intensity that a tackle needs. Once he learns the position, he could develop into a contributor, but that is a long way away. He could vie for a spot on the practice squad.

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