Competition To Replace Grubbs Intensifies

Jah Reid, Kelechi Osemele and Gino Gradkowski will compete to be the starting left guard.

Posted by Garrett Downing on Monday, April 30th, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Categories: 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 Offseason, Garrett Downing

A week ago, second-year lineman Jah Reid appeared to have a leg up in the battle for the starting left guard spot.

Now he has some more company.

The Ravens drafted guard/tackle Kelechi Osemele in the second round and center/guard Gino Gradkowski in the fourth round, and all three players have their eyes set on winning the starting job. 

“Competition is always good,” Reid said. “It just makes me better and gives me something to work for. You’re always going to have competition, they’re always trying to replace you. They always want to keep you on your toes. That’s how it works.”

The left guard spot opened up this offseason when Pro Bowler Ben Grubbs went to New Orleans in free agency.

To fill the position, the Ravens planned on converting Reid from tackle to guard, but now he’ll have to beat out the rookies to win the job.

“I’m not ruling anything out,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “You’ve got to fight in this league for your spot every single day, and that goes for all the guys on our offensive line as well.”

Osemele primarily played left tackle in college, but he worked at guard and tackle at the Senior Bowl and believes he has the ability to play either spot in the NFL.

“I am both,” Osemele said. “I am a versatile player, have quick feet. I am aggressive. It really doesn’t matter what spot I am in, I will just fill whatever void the team needs me to fill.”

Gradkowski also sees himself as versatile enough to play guard.

During his college career at Delaware, he spent most of his time at center and he is a natural candidate to eventually replace 15-year veteran Matt Birk as the team’s starting center.

But first he’s focused on beating out Reid and Osemele for the left guard job.

“Come in and maybe play guard my first year and eventually take over at center, that’s what I’m looking to do,” Gradkowski said.

One of the key attractions to Osemele and Gradkowski was that both players are able to play multiple positions along the line. Even if they don’t end up starting right away, they could still fill in at different spots if one of the starters goes down with an injury.

“Guys that have the flexibility on the offensive line are really, really valuable,” General Manager Ozzie Newsome said. “What it does, it also allows us to put them in multiple positions and see what they’re best at.”

The same is true for Reid, who was drafted as a right tackle but is now making the transition to left guard. He saw limited action during his rookie season, mostly subbing in as an extra lineman in the team’s jumbo packages.

His focus now is on taking his game to the next level and earning a starting job, but he also knows it’s going to be a tight battle to get it.

“I just want to work and get a spot out there,” Reid said. “I’ll work at every position I can. Wherever I get an opportunity, I’m going to take it.”

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