As the Ravens search for answers along an offensive line without center Matt Birk and a proven player at right tackle, the most maligned -- and maybe the most intriguing -- internal option is Oniel Cousins. The fourth-year veteran hasn't lived up to his third-round billing at tackle so the team is now experimenting with him at guard.
Projected right guard Marshal Yanda, who was rewarded with a contract extension after a solid season at right tackle in 2010, was sidelined over the weekend with a back injury. And the Ravens, who have tried out a number of personnel combinations on the line during training camp, stuck Cousins in his place.
The Ravens are counting on rookie Jah Reid at right tackle. But if he isn’t ready, they may have to move Yanda back to tackle. Cousins might be the best option on the roster to take his vacated spot at right guard. "Maybe he is suited for that position," coach John Harbaugh said Saturday. "We'll find out."
So has guard been a better position for Cousins so far?
“It has. It was something that was brought up this summer,” Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said Monday. “You are playing the scenario game this offseason, and that was something that we thought up. … With Marshal not practicing, that was a good opportunity for us to take a look at him. I thought he did a nice job.”
Since Cousins is a lineman, he usually only gets noticed when an opposing pass rusher blows past him, which has seemingly been a weekly occurrence when Cousins gets regular playing time. He was victimized for at least one sack against the Eagles on Thursday. But he has a mean streak -- that was evident again during Monday’s training camp brouhaha with Pernell McPhee -- and he can play with physicality when he's in the mood.
When left on an island at either tackle position, Cousins has been overmatched. Those few plays a game that we notice him are enough to let us know that he can’t cut it at tackle in the NFL. But if he’s moved to guard, he gets help on both sides. Maybe that will cover up his flaws and allow him to perform at a higher level.
It won’t hurt to give it a try the rest of the preseason. After all, what other options do the Ravens have on their roster right now?