Veteran offensive lineman A.Q. Shipley will start Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons, marking the latest development in the Ravens' ongoing center competition.

Although Gino Gradkowski started the preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is listed as first on the depth chart, he's being pushed hard by Shipley.

The Ravens will likely declare a winner in the center duel following their third preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.

"The nice thing right now is everybody says, 'Who's the guy?'" Ravens run-game coordinator Juan Castillo said. "We're talking to them and we say, 'We need to have some separation, somebody has to come to the top.' The problem is they're both playing real well right now. They're both doing a good job. They're both in the pass protection, both using their hands real well."

Shipley was acquired in May via a trade from the Indianapolis Colts for a conditional 2014 seventh-round draft pick. Gradkowski was drafted in the fifth round out of Delaware last year and was mentored as a rookie by six-time Pro Bowl center Matt Birk, who retired after the Super Bowl.

"They're both good leaders," Castillo said. "They're both tough and ready to fight. So, they're really doing a good job. The games are very important. Gino started last week. This week, A.Q. will do that. Probably the third game we'll split them up and then we'll make a decision."

awilson@baltsun.com

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