CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 04: Defenders Parnell McPhee #90 and Paul Kruger #99 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrate after a sack against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
The Ravens will have several positional battles in this years training camp. There are two open starting positions and several back up spots open for the taking.
The most important position up for grabs is the starting right guard position vacated by Ben Grubbs. There are three players currently in the running for this job, second year tackle Jah Reid and two rookies, Gino Gradkowski and Kelechi Osemele. If the season were to start tomorrow Jah Reid would most likely get the starting nod due to his NFL experience and his knowledge of the Ravens play book. However, this could change after training camp and all three players performances in the preseason. I would think that Osemele would have an edge over Gradkowski because he was drafted earlier and Gradkowski will most likely be groomed to replace Matt Birk at center eventually.
The other starting position up for grabs is the starting outside linebacker position vacated by long time Ravens and fan favorite Jarret Johnson. Head coach John Harbaugh came out and said that Paul Kruger currently has a leg up on the competition but the drafting of OLB/DE Courtney Upshaw in the second round of the draft will provide steep competition at the position. Upshaw was projected as top 15 talent before the draft but somehow managed to drop all the way to pick 35 where the Ravens nabbed him. A wild card in this competition is third year pro Sergio Kindle. Kindle was another top 15 talent that dropped into the Ravens lap two years ago but has been sidelined do to a freak injury before his first training camp. If he is able to return to his prior form he could really shake things up.
Beyond the two open starting positions there will also be battles for back up running back, back up safety and several players looking to rotate at the defensive end position formerly held by Cory Redding.
The Ravens drafted safety Christian Thompson and signed free agent Sean Considine and both will likely see time at safety and on special teams. Baltimore used several defensive packages involving three safeties on the field at once last year under defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. Mostly they did this when they were thin at corner and used safeties as their nickle and dime defensive backs. It is unknown if new defensive coordinator Dean Pees will use similar formations.
Baltimore moved up in the draft to secure running back Bernard pierce out of Temple. This seems to show that the team does not have the confidence in back-ups Anthony Allen and Damien Berry that most fans thought they might. I would have to think that Pierce has a leg up on the competition before even touching the field after the team used two draft picks on him. Still the position will not be given to him and he will have to live up to some heavy expectations in training camp.
The defensive end position will most likely end up being a rotation of Arthur Jones on early downs and Pernell McPhee on third downs and obvious pass rushing situations. However, Don't count out last years un-drafted free agent Michael MaCadoo to add his name to the rotation if he is able to bulk up a bit over the off season. Standing at 6'8" with uncanny speed he has the tools to be a difference maker. It is only his mental capacity and inexperience at the professional level that may be holding him back at this point. he will need to learn better technique to play in the NFL. It will be up to him to make this decision harder for the coaching staff.