Moved around and depended upon more than anyone during the preseason, rookie offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele grew up quite a bit this summer for the Ravens.
Beginning the preseason as the starting right tackle while the Ravens figured out what to do with veteran Bryant McKinnie and then moved to left guard to spell veteran Bobbie Williams at a couple different points, Osemele never missed a beat as he proved the Ravens to be wise for selecting him with the 60th overall pick. And while Osemele isn’t projected to be one of the five starting offensive linemen when the Ravens take the field against the Cincinnati Bengals next Monday night, the rookie is expected to still be a factor as the top reserve.
“The feel that I’m getting is that I’ll pretty much have a substantial role as far as how my preseason went,” Osemele said. “[I’m] not really sure how things are going to go as far as starting or at what point, but it feels like I’ll have a pretty substantial role as far as what my coaches have been saying.”
Though third-year tackle Ramon Harewood and 2011 third-round pick Jah Reid are also on the 53-man roster, Osemele would be the top backup tackle should anything happen to McKinnie or right tackle Michael Oher. Even more interesting could be the possibility of Osemele pushing Williams for the starting left guard position. The 35-year-old newcomer has received rave reviews for his presence in the locker room, but he continues to deal with the effects of a surgically-repaired right ankle and struggled in the preseason.
For now, Osemele will continue to work at both guard and tackle — he’s practiced at every position on the line except for center — while the Ravens attempt to find creative ways to keep the rookie involved. Whether it’s inserting him into the game as a blocking tight end or perhaps spelling Williams for a series or two to keep the veteran fresh, the Ravens view Osemele’s athleticism and accelerated development as major reasons to put him on the field as much as possible.
With a veteran group of linemen in front of him on the depth chart, the rookie continues to absorb knowledge like a sponge and is confident the many questions surrounding the offensive line will be answered favorably starting next Monday.
“As far as our development, we’re doing great,” Osemele said. “Obviously, we have really good veterans on our team. Me being a young guy, I’m just trying to learn from them. They’ve got it down pat. They make very [few] mistakes. They’ve been in mid-season form since we’ve started, so they look good. I’m just trying to catch up and get to where they are at, which is going to take me a while. As far as the front five, those guys are ready to go.”