(Updated: 1:30 p.m.)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Preparing to play his first NFL game on Monday night, Ravens offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele may play a much larger role than anyone anticipated.
The rookie from Iowa State said he expects to start and play tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals, which is an interesting development after veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie was nearly released on Tuesday before agreeing to a restructured contract that reduced his 2012 base salary from $3.2 million to $2.2 million. Osemele worked extensively at right tackle this summer while Michael Oher moved to the left side as McKinnie worked with the second team after reporting late to training camp.
“I think so,” said Osemele when asked if he thought he would start. “It looks like it.”
The last extensive action for the starting offense came in the third preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In that contest, McKinnie started at left tackle and Oher played right tackle while Osemele played left guard and Bobbie Williams shifted to the right guard position in place of the injured Marshal Yanda.
Coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens have said all along that the best five offensive linemen would start and play, and Osemele’s comments would lead you to believe the team has identified the rookie as being part of that group. Of course, his remarks do not guarantee he will actually be in the starting lineup because no member of the coaching staff has confirmed the decision.
When asked on Tuesday about Osemele’s role on the offensive line and whether he might start over Bobbie Williams at left guard, Harbaugh would not reveal the team’s plans. We’ll learn Monday night whether he was hiding the possibility of the rookie starting at right tackle instead.
“I don’t think we will be disclosing that at this time,” Harbaugh said. “But, there will be five guys starting, and we do have a plan.”
It appears that plan may be different than most would have anticipated.