COMMENTARY | As training camp quickly approaches, the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens have put together a roster than has plenty of depth at every position. There will be a wide array of position battles during training camp, leading to the eventual cuts of several key veterans.
One place where there will be no shortage of competition in July and August is along the offensive line, where the Ravens have ample depth at all five positions. Heading into the season, the starting offensive line is nearly set, with the center position being the only uncertain starting position at the moment.
While the starting lineup is all but put together, the battle to earn a backup spot will be as intense as any other position during training camp. The five players who have roster spots all but locked are Bryant McKinnie, Kelechi Osemele, Gino Gradkowski, Marshal Yanda and Michael Oher. After the projected starting five, there are no guaranteed roster spots.
One veteran lineman whose roster spot is far from guaranteed is third-yeard tackle/guard Jah Reid. The former third-round pick has battled injuries throughout his first two seasons, however he did manage to start seven games and play in nine in 2012 before suffering a season-ending injury.
While Reid appears healthy and ready to go for the 2013 season, it will be an uphill battle for him to make the roster. Assuming the Ravens keep nine offensive linemen on the final 53-man roster, Reid will battle for one of the final four spots with Ramon Harewood, A.Q. Shipley, Ryan Jensen and Ricky Wagner. The two rookies, Jensen and Wagner would logically have an advantage to make the team, given the way the Ravens value their draft picks.
Shipley played admirably in a fill-in role at center for the Indianapolis Colts in 2012 and has a legitimate shot at giving Gradkowski a run for the starting job. That could leave Reid with Harewood as well as other linemen on the roster such as David Mims as his main competition for the final offensive lineman spot, assuming the Ravens do indeed keep nine linemen.
Reid and Harewood are similar players in respect to the fact that they are swing linemen, capable of playing both guard and tackle. After failing to suit up for a game in his first two seasons, Harewood cracked the rotation in 2012, playing in six games and starting in five. He displayed his potential that led to the Ravens taking a risk on him in the 2010 draft, and the team may value him more as he has more room for growth.
With their similar playing styles and roles, Reid and Harewood have been nearly identical players during their time in Baltimore. With two draft picks used on linemen this year, the Ravens may ultimately have to move on from one of the two. Returning from injury doesn't help Reid's cause, and if Harewood continues to develop after a rather successful 2012 season, Reid may be on the outside looking in when the final 53-man roster is set.
Kyle Casey is a sports writer living in Baltimore, Md. He maintains his own football site, End Zone Report, and contributes to Ravens Central Radio, a Baltimore Ravens podcast. Follow him on Twitter @kylecasey094.
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