Handicapping the field for one, maybe two, openings on the defensive line isn't easy for observers. Imagine what it's like for the coaches.
That being said, there are factors to consider when considering what Kelly Talavou, Brandon McKinney, Lamar Divens and rookie Arthur Jones have done during the preseason.
Talavou is tied for second among the Ravens in sacks with 1½ and spent the entire 2009 season on the team’s active roster. The same could be said for McKinney, who played in seven games before sustaining a herniated disk in his back.
Divens, who missed last season due to a hip injury, is tied for second among defensive linemen in tackles with five and has posted a sack. And Jones, a fifth-round pick in April, shares a half-sack with linebacker Antwan Barnes.
Despite the competition, there is no animosity between the foursome.
"We know we're in competition, but at the same time, we look to help each other out," Divens said. "If I'm doing something wrong or if one of those guys is doing something wrong, we'll tell each other. There's no hostility between us."
Unlike his elders, Jones is the only draft pick among the four players. But he didn't think that could be interpreted as an advantage for his candidacy.
"To an extent, but it doesn't matter if you're a fifth-round pick or a first- or second-round pick," Jones said. "The main thing for me is to try and get better while I'm here and see where it takes me."
All four players realize that a significant portion of their future will be determined by their play against the St. Louis Rams Thursday night. Out there on the turf of the Edward Jones Dome, their performances will be analyzed, dissected, and graded.
"Regardless of where you are on the depth chart, they're going to see what you can do," McKinney said. "Whether you're doing well or not doing well, they're going to see. That's just the reality of the fact."
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