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From Sub to Starter?

With the departure of Dawan Landry, Tom Zbikowski looks to fill the vacancy alongside Ed Reed.

Posted by Mike Duffy on Sunday, July 31st, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Categories: 2011 Training Camp, Mike Duffy

Tom Zbikowski has started 10 games throughout his career, but that was always to fill in for an injured Ed Reed.

In the wake of Dawan Landry signing a lucrative contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend, the Ravens will have to find a new starter – this time next to Reed.

Zbikowski has planned to assume that mantle for a while.

“I was working from morning to night to compete for a starting spot, regardless of who was here and who wasn’t,” he said Saturday from Ravens training camp.  “I’m looking forward to the opportunity to play alongside Ed, instead of just filling in for him.”

Last year, “Zibby” subbed for Reed in the first six games of the season while the perennial Pro Bowler rehabilitated a hip injury.

In 2009, the former third-round draft pick (2008) spelled Reed for four games.

“Playing alongside Dawan and watching him early in my career, I honestly learned a lot,” Zbikowski said.  “The way he practiced and played showed me a lot. He’s one of the most well-rounded safeties in the NFL.

“When you’re next to Ed, you’re not going to get a lot of recognition, but people were watching [Landry].  We’ve been teammates for three years, and he’s accomplished a lot. That’s something I’d love to get in the future.”

Zbikowski, who spent approximately four months on the professional boxing circuit this offseason, said people shouldn’t get caught up in the difference between strong safety (Landry) and free safety (Reed) in the Ravens’ defense.

“I think it’s interchangeable in the way we play those positions with the Ravens,” he explained.  “You’re trying to confuse people, so the more both safeties can do both jobs, moving around and doing different things, I think it’s going to make it more complicated for offenses to read.

“You’re not going to get a read on what we’re doing because we don’t necessarily have a strong and free. You’ve got two guys who can do both.”

The Ravens currently have an interesting training camp battle brewing between Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura – among several young free agents – for Landry’s vacated spot.

Marcus Paschal is one player who has Ravens experience – on the practice squad – while Mana Silva is a highly-touted rookie free agent who could be in the mix.

But to Zbikowski, the approach hasn’t changed.

“We knew that there was a chance he could leave, and knew that me, Haruki and the younger guys would have to step in and do what we’ve always done,” said Zbikowski.  “If Ed’s been down or Dawan’s been down, we’ve just picked the group up where we could.”

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