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The most glaring need on the Ravens offense appears to be at left guard, which opened up when Pro Bowler Ben Grubbs headed to New Orleans.
For now, second-year lineman Jah Reid is the internal favorite for the job, but Head Coach John Harbaugh made it clear that Reid first has to win the position.
“I would say right now, today, he is the left guard,” Harbaugh said Friday. “(But) he has to earn that spot.”
The Ravens’ original option at guard was to re-sign Grubbs, but once he went to the Saints their attention turned to free agent Evan Mathis, who turned down an offer from Baltimore to stay in Philadelphia.
That left the Ravens with Reid, who was drafted as a tackle out of college, but showed the coaches he also has the ability to play on the interior of the line.
“He could play any position along the front line,” Harbaugh said. “He played every position last year in practice. He is definitely a possible answer at left guard.”
The Ravens could also add players in free agency or the draft to compete with Reid for the starting job. Several draft experts have the Ravens taking an interior lineman in the first three rounds, and Baltimore has also shown a tendency to sign veteran free agents late in the process.
Last year, the Ravens added left tackle Bryant McKinnie in late August and signed center Andre Gurode six days before the first game. They could go that route again this season, as upgrading the offensive line remains a priority.
“We’ll continue to be looking for players,” Harbaugh said. “Our goal will be to put the best five offensive linemen on the field. Jah, I’d like to see him be one of those guys, but it’s going to be up to him to earn that spot.”
Reid (6-foot-7, 335 pounds) has the size more fit for tackle, but the coaching staff believes he is athletic enough to make the transition.
“He’s big enough, he’s strong enough, he’s smart enough, he’s got the right attitude,” Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron said. “It’s just a matter of getting in there and playing down after down.”
The third-round pick out of Central Florida was active for every game in his rookie season and played some snaps as a backup tackle, but was primarily used as an extra lineman in the “jumbo” sets. He shuffled around the line in practice, showing off his versatility.
“The best thing to happen to him, I thought, is that we had to work him in practice at both tackles and both guard positions,” Cameron said. “Going against our defense every day, there’s no better way to get a young player ready offensively. You can really develop quickly and I think that’s what will happen with Jah.”
Now, it’s just a matter of Reid developing enough to hold down that left guard job.
“We have a lot of time between now and the start of the season,” Cameron said. “Whether he plays guard or tackle, we think he is going to be a really good player.”