At this time a year ago, Oniel Cousins was battling back after having a cyst removed from his esophagus. Now, healthier and more motivated, Cousins has a different fight on his mind.
"My goal is to be the starting right tackle," said Cousins, who was a guest at Derrick Mason's football camp at McDaniel College on Friday. "I said that last year, but it didn't play out like that obviously for health reasons or whatever it was. I know I can do it. I believe in myself. My family believes in me and I hope the coaches believe in me, too."
The amount of belief by the coaching staff is up for debate. When the Ravens had to reshuffle their offensive line before the regular season last year, they chose to move Marshal Yanda from right guard to tackle instead of starting Cousins there.
Then, three months ago, the Ravens used a third-round pick on right tackle Jah Reid. It was only three years ago when the Ravens drafted Cousins in the third round.
Cousins didn't watch the draft but he heard about the latest addition to the offensive line.
"In the back of your mind, you're kind of wondering: Do they not believe in me enough?" Cousins said. "[But] the more you spend time thinking about that stuff, the more it's going to get in your head. What I can control is [to] go out there and show them that I can play and help the team win."
Cousins' best shot at proving himself came in 2009, when he started three games. But he struggled at Pittsburgh, giving up back-to-back sacks to LaMarr Woodley on the Ravens' final possession in a 23-20 loss.
His progress was slowed last spring when he had arthroscopic surgery on his throat, which caused him to miss the first 10 days of training camp. After Yanda was moved to right tackle, Cousins cracked the starting lineup for one game.
Cousins showed his eagerness for the upcoming season, becoming the first Raven to report when the lockout briefly ended in April. It will be the most pivotal summer yet for 6 foot 4, 315-pound lineman, who could end up in the starting lineup or on the roster bubble.
Besides Cousins, players competing for a roster spot on the offensive line include: Reid, Ramon Harewood, Tony Moll and possibly another veteran free agent.
"I'm not trying to just get on the roster; I'm trying to compete for a starting job," Cousins said. "Nobody wants to be a backup.
"I feel real good compared to how I felt last year. I can go out there, compete my butt off and get the job done. Prove the world wrong and show everybody that I can get it done."
A look at the candidates for the Ravens' right tackle job:
Oniel Cousins: Aggressive run blocker with a nasty streak. His pass protection is a concern.
Jared Gaither: He's only in the mix if he is a restricted free agent instead of an unrestricted one under the new collective bargaining agreement. His injury history and work ethic has made him an undependable option.
Ramon Harewood: The 2010 sixth-round pick sat out last season after having surgery on both knees. The Ravens like his potential (the combination of size, agile feet and intelligence), but he's probably a year away from competing for a starting job.
Jah Reid: The 85th overall pick in the draft has yet to take a snap as an NFL player because of the lockout. He would likely need an outstanding camp in order for the Ravens to throw a rookie into the starting lineup in a season opener against Pittsburgh.
Tony Moll: He made 18 starts in three seasons with Green Bay, but he's been used as a backup guard during his time with the Ravens.
Veteran free agent: There will be some intriguing options whenever free agency begins. The Ravens could show interest in Jammal Brown, who played left tackle for the New Orleans Saints and right tackle for the Washington Redskins.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun