Osemele finds a home at guard

Osemele finds a home at guard
January 10, 2013, 1:30 pm

Weather will play no factor for Ravens in Denver

It's only been one game, but the Ravens might have found their left guard of the future.

Rookie Kelechi Osemele, who started every regular season game at right tackle, slid over to left guard for the playoff game against the Colts last week, and the early reviews were positive. In fact, it's possible that will be Osemele's position for the long haul.

"He played extremely well," Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said at his weekly news conference on Wednesday. "He fought. He blocked well. Obviously, it wasn’t perfect. I think you’re just going to see he’s going to get better and better all the time.”

Osemele played primarily tackle at Iowa State, but the he was viewed by the Ravens as a possibility at either guard or tackle when they made him a second-round draft pick. He took a lot of reps at guard in training camp before settling into his starting role at tackle, but said the move to guard last week felt “pretty natural.”

Osemele's move was predicated, at least in part, by a toe injury to guard Jah Reid, who started the final seven games of the regular season at guard. Osemele said afterward that coaches said the move was also about "getting our best five pass blockers out there for the playoffs."

Veteran Bryant McKinnie made his first start of the season at left tackle last week, with Michael Oher moving to the right side to fill Osemele's former spot.

Reid missed practice against Thursday and is not likely to play at Denver on Saturday, so this lineup appears to be set for at least another week.

The Ravens have been searching for a left guard since losing Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs to free agency this past offseason. Ramon Harewood, Bobbie Williams and Reid have all started there this fall with mixed results.  

Now the job appears to be Osemele's, and it could stay that way.

"I feel he has a great chance of being a great left guard," McKinnie said. "It depends what the team wants to do with him... but if you keep giving him reps he can be a dominant left guard."

Center Matt Birk explained tackles need to be a little quicker and more athletic than guards, but said Osemele could be “a good whatever, wherever he plays. He’s just a good football player. It starts with being physical. He’s a physical player, he’s a great athlete, with big long arms, all those things that linemen need.

“KO is a smart guy,” Birk added. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s a student of the game. Even though he’s only a rookie, he’s a pro.”

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