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Center Jeremy Zuttah not guaranteed starting job

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Newly acquired Ravens center Jeremy Zuttah is expected to be the starting center going into the 2014 season but it is far from a guarantee. Based on quote from Harbaugh below, it looks like Zuttah still needs to prove himself to the Ravens' coaching staff in order to get the starting nod.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Newly acquired Ravens center Jeremy Zuttah is expected to be the starting center going into the 2014 season but it is far from a guarantee. Based on quote from Harbaugh below, it looks like Zuttah still needs to prove himself to the Ravens' coaching staff in order to get the starting nod.

Jeremy Zuttah is doing a great job. He’s smart – really smart, really mature (and) goes about his business in a mature way. I’m just very impressed with how smart he is. He’s very quick. He’s about 305, 306 pounds. He looks good physically in there. But he can move, so we’ll see. It’s going to be interesting to watch him play to see if he can prove himself

Now we've heard an awful lot about Zuttah's chief competition for the starting job, Gino Gradkowski, being pretty smart himself which is an important trait that the Ravens like to have going back to Matt Birk, a Harvard grad in his own right. As a center, intelligence is definitely important because of the role that they have to play in identifying defensive formations, pointing out blitzes and being the lead along the offensive line with correct protection calls.

However, as we saw last season with Gradkowski getting pushed around the line of scrimmage, intelligence isn't the only necessary element. Gradkowski is listed at 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, while Zuttah is listed at 6-foot-4 and 308 pounds. Zuttah showed some tenacity at the point of attack last season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers which led the Ravens to trade a fifth-round pick for him and sign him to an $18 million 5 year contract. Having started in 76 out of a possible 96 games over his 6 year career, he has clearly shown the ability to be consistent in both his play and health.

One option that has been lightly discussed is moving left guard Kolechi Osemele over to right tackle and then sliding Zuttah to left guard. While that is a last resort type of situtation, it might not be as terrible as Ravens' fans would think. Osemele was on injured reserve last year, leading to AQ Shipley to start in his spot. With Yanda hurt as well, Gradkowski wasn't surrounded with the best talent to help support the second year player which led to him being overwhelmed.

While Zuttah isn't guaranteed the starting job, it appears that it is definitely his to lose.