It was only a year ago that Ravens offensive lineman Jah Reid was selected in the third round of the 2011 draft and was soon thereafter projected to be the starting right tackle in his first NFL season.
The organization was high on Reid’s immense size and talent, but the lengthy lockout prevented Reid and fellow rookies from even receiving a playbook let alone being able to work out at the team’s facility in Owings Mills. After the Central Florida product struggled in training camp, the Ravens elected to move Michael Oher back to right tackle and a sign veteran Bryant McKinnie to play on the left side, relegating Reid to the bench.
With a year of practice under his belt, Reid now knows what it takes to play at the next level and will try to replace former left guard Ben Grubbs on the starting offensive line. Though he began working at guard late last season, the 23-year-old is taking full advantage of privileges that weren’t afforded to him last year due to the work stoppage.
“It’s nice being here with the team and working out instead of being on my own,” Reid said. “I know what to expect and know what to work on. It’s good being with the position staff.”
With the Ravens unable to re-sign Grubbs, who accepted a lucrative contract with the New Orleans Saints last month, head coach John Harbaugh projected Reid as the starting left guard in late March. However, the Ravens have made it clear that the 6-foot-7 former tackle will have to earn the starting job.
Making the transition to guard is a fresh endeavor for Reid, who only played there sparingly in his time at Central Florida. Reid was also more accustomed to working on the right side of the line a year ago and has spent this offseason on the differences in his footwork.
Experts often say it’s easier for tackles to move inside to guard than it is for interior players to move outside. Reid isn’t sure whether he agrees with that general notion, but he believes he fits the profile of why tackles are able to do it.
“They like to think tackles are better athletes, so it’s easier to transition,” Reid said. “I think I’m an athlete. I think I can be able to do it and play the position well. I look forward to doing that and look forward to playing guard.”
When Marshal Yanda suffered leg and rib injuries last December, Reid began seeing extensive practice time at the right guard position leading up to the regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. Reid’s services ultimately weren’t needed as Yanda played in the Ravens’ division-clinching win, but his ability to learn a new position grabbed the attention of his teammates.
And while Reid isn’t guaranteed to be starting when the season opens on Sept. 10, the rest of the offensive line expects him to be lining up with them.
“He gives 150 percent effort,” said right tackle Michael Oher, who knows about switching from one side of the offensive line to the other. “He’s going to give it his all. I’m looking for him to get in and make an impact. He’s a very physical player. I’m looking for him to have a pretty good year at guard.”
The next major hurdle for Reid in becoming the starting left guard is next weekend’s draft. The Ravens are believed to have interest in some of the top interior linemen in the draft who could be available with the 29th overall pick, such as Peter Konz and Kevin Zeitler of Wisconsin, Cordy Glenn of Georgia, and Iowa State’s Kelechi Osemele.
Even if the Ravens don’t draft an interior lineman in the early rounds of the draft, they are likely to add a veteran before training camp to compete with Reid. The second-year lineman says he’s focused on putting in the necessary work to get better and not concerned with any potential competitors being added to the roster.
“I just have to go in and expect to play,” Reid said. “I want this position, and I see it as mine to lose. I’m not going to [dwell] on anyone else coming in. I’m just going to work on myself.”