Ravens coach John Harbaugh took the bold initiative of stating that rookie Kelechi Osemele could start at right tackle. The organization’s second-round pick in April's NFL draft didn’t disagree with that sentiment.
“Right now, it’ll come down to practices and reps and stuff,” Osemele said after Saturday’s practice at the team’s training complex in Owings Mills. “I still don’t have it down 100 percent. So right now, I’m just trying to learn from the older guys, but come September, I’ll be ready.”
Osemele’s confidence comes on the heels of Harbaugh’s post-practice comments on Friday when he was asked whether Osemele could open the regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10 as the starting right tackle.
“[W]e definitely feel like he is a guy we could plug in and he can start,” Harbaugh said. “I would say that about the other two players, too, aboutRamon [Harewood] and aboutJah [Reid]. But K.O. is talented, he’s tough, he’s really smart. [Offensive line coach] Andy [Moeller] is doing a great job with him. Absolutely, yes.”
Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron was slightly more cautious in his assessment of Osemele’s readiness for the position.
“I think it’s probably a little premature to make any statements along those lines,” Cameron said after Saturday’s session. “But we are just going to let this thing evolve. You always want your offensive line to play out. You are only going to keep about nine or so guys on your roster and you’re only going to have seven active. You want to keep as much competition as you can. Obviously, he is in the mix. We drafted him for a reason. We were jumping up and down when he was still on the board. So we will just let it play out, but obviously, we think he’s going to be a really good player.”
Osemele, who made 38 starts at left tackle and five starts at left guard at Iowa State, said the last time he had lined up at right tackle was during the Senior Bowl in January. Prior to that, it was at Langham Creek High School in Houston.
“But it felt natural, like I had been playing it the whole time,” he said. “It felt really good. I feel like that’s my most natural position.”
Osemele, who began camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list after suffering back spasms, said he seeks counsel from his teammates, but especially from the player who lines up next to him on the left side, right guard Marshal Yanda.
“Surprisingly, I’ve been talking to Marshal the most because he played it when he came here as a rookie, and he’s just been giving me pointers and stuff like that,” Osemele said. “And I’ve been getting the calls from him. He has a lot of experience, so he’s been helping a lot.”
Osemele said his objective now is to reacclimate himself to the right tackle role – a task that grows in importance as the team is leaning on him to adapt quickly. Osemele said he doesn’t plan on disappointing his teammates or coaches.
“It really reminded me of why they brought me here, and they just reminded me to keep playing the way I’ve been playing and everything will come together, and the older guys will help me,” he said. “So I’m pretty confident about it.”