In a 2012 draft class that is shaping up to be average at best for the Ravens, rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele has been a bright spot.
From Week 1, Osemele has entrenched himself along the starting offensive line at right tackle, even though he told Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun he’d prefer to play guard. Osemele has been a model rookie, doing what the coaches ask and even though his offensive line has been under some criticism, he’s tuned out the negativity and remained extremely positive.
Common football fans may not be aware but players are graded after each game like they’re in elementary school. Following every game, coaches dissect the game film and create objectives for the player to work on the following week.
“I’m on fire right now,” Osemele said following Wednesday’s practice. “I’m just starting to hit my flow. In the beginning, I was very raw.”
“In the run game, I probably graded out one of the highest but in the pass game, I was one of the worst as far as technique. Now, I’m probably top two on the offensive line as far as technique goes. My run game has been good but I’m just trying to get my pass protection on the same level as my run blocking.”
Osemele hasn’t had a typical rookie season as his offensive coordinator was fired after 14 weeks. Now in Jim Caldwell’s offense, Osemele says things are still essentially the same at his position.
“Really nothing has really changed,” he said. “We’re still going to try to communicate as much as possible and play well as a unit. We’re still going to try to be physical and dominant in the run game.”
When properly utilized, the Ravens run game is dominant, as evidenced by their backfield duo of Ray Rice and Vonta Leach being named to the 2013 Pro Bowl. Osemele has found himself blocking for one of the league’s best running backs and in his first attempt, he contributed to a division championship.
“It’s really exciting,” Osemele said when asked about his feelings on winning the AFC North. “It’s always good to be in playoff contention chasing for a Super Bowl – and the checks don’t hurt either.”
Before Osemele can play in his first playoff game, a regular season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals stands in front of him. With the game essentially being used as a tune up for the playoffs, Osemele will be tested by the lone Bengals defensive Pro Bowl representative, defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
“You can never be too prepared for somebody, even somebody that this team has seen multiple times per year,” said Osemele. “You always have to watch film and see if guys are doing something new, and as far as we’ve seen, he’s actually picked up his play a lot since the last time we saw him on film. Their whole defensive line has really picked their game up.”
The Bengals have improved since their 44-13 opening week thrashing at the hands of the Ravens, winning five of their last six games to secure the AFC’s final wild card spot. If the Ravens win on Sunday and the Miami Dolphins beat the New England Patriots in Foxboro, MA. the Ravens will see the Bengals for the third time this season.
Coach John Harbaugh suggested this week that the Ravens will play to win Sunday. If that’s true – and if the Bengals do the same – the regular season’s final contest will be far from a walk in the park for Osemele and his teammates.