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Top Position Battles To Watch

Take a look at the key position battles to watch throughout the offseason.

Posted by Garrett Downing on Saturday, May 19th, 2012 at 10:40 am | Categories: 2012 Offseason, Garrett Downing

Now that the rookies have arrived and the bulk of the free-agent movement has passed, the Ravens have the core of their roster in place that they will take into training camp.

But the battles for positions don’t have to wait until camp.

Rookies and veterans are fighting for roster spots and starting jobs right now, and many of those competitions will continue up until the start of the season.

Here are some of the key positions battles to watch throughout the remainder of the offseason:

Outside Linebacker: Both outside linebacker positions will be up for grabs in training camp this year, as Jarret Johnson left in free agency and Terrell Suggs is out for an unspecified amount of time with an Achilles tendon injury.

The likely candidates for the starting jobs are Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle, Albert McClellan and rookie Courtney Upshaw.

Kruger has the most experience at outside linebacker of anyone in the group, as he has spent much of his three years in the league as a pass-rush specialist.

Kindle is heading into his third season and still has to prove himself after a head injury set him back during his rookie season. He has potential, but hasn’t had much of an opportunity to show it early in his career.

McClellan spent most of last season as an inside linebacker, even starting in place of Ray Lewis when Lewis was down with a toe injury. He is a versatile player and could make the switch outside.

Upshaw played the rush linebacker position in college, which is similar to the role that Suggs plays. Moving into that position while Suggs is out could be a natural transition for the Ravens’ second-round pick.

Left Guard: This battle will likely come down to three of the Ravens’ youngest lineman: second-year lineman Jah Reid and rookies Kelechi Osemele and Gino Gradkowski.

Reid came into the NFL as a right tackle, but has made the position switch this offseason and was the favorite to win the job before Baltimore drafted Osemele and Gradkowski.

Osemele played  left tackle in college, but is comfortable moving over to guard. He performed well at rookie minicamp last week, as he was one of the biggest players out on the field. Gradkowski played center and guard at college, but he doesn’t have the size of Reid or Osemele, which could make it tough for him to beat them out for the spot.

Wide Receiver: The first two receiver spots appear firmly in the grasp of Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, but after that there are five players vying for the third and fourth receiver jobs.

Free-agent acquisition Jacoby Jones, Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, David Reed and rookie Tommy Streeter are all competing for time. Jones is the likely favorite for the No. 3 job, but a strong camp from the other candidates could make this one of the most tightly contested positions battles of the offseason.

Cornerback: This is one of the deepest positions for the Ravens, as former first-round pick Jimmy Smith and last year’s starter Cary Williams will compete for the No. 2 spot next to Lardarius Webb.

Williams played well last year season in his first season as a starter, but Smith showed glimpses of his potential in the chances that he got after an early-season injury.

Regardless of who wins the job, all three players will get plenty of time on the field, as the Ravens often use three corners to offset pass-heavy formations that more teams are using.

Running Back: Ray Rice has the starting running back position locked up, but behind him is a different story. After Ricky Williams suddenly retired this offseason, the No. 2 running back spot will be a battle between second-year backs Anthony Allen and Damien Berry and rookie Bernard Pierce.

All three backs bring different running styles to the mix, as Allen is a power runner, Berry is more a speed back and Pierce has a slashing style. None of the three appears to have a leg up in the race right now.

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