THE GRAPEVINE: Ravens prepare for camp battles

Lombardi's Way THE GRAPEVINE: Ravens prepare for camp battles

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Not long after the Ravens drafted right tackle Jah Reid, a few inside the walls of team headquarters stated that Reid would be a starter at some point during the season. Surprisingly, the proclamation was made when it was thought that the Ravens would retain Jared Gaither as a restricted free agent.

Now that it appears Gaither will be an unrestricted free agent, unless he and his agent Drew Rosenhaus do a complete about face, the former Terp will probably add former Raven to his resume.

So does that make Reid the starter from day 1?

It might.

Reid’s competition for the position will be Oniel Cousins and 2010 6th round pick Ramon Harewood. Cousins, a former defensive lineman is a project that has failed. Harewood could have benefitted greatly from OTA’s and will have to prove that he’s capable of being a quick study and retained what he learned in camp last season. Perhaps soon, those “games” will begin.

Another free agent that the Ravens will have to deal with is Chris Chester. If Chester can earn starter money elsewhere, he may no longer qualify as a “right player, right price” and he could be gone. The Ravens may then look to a player in free agency with experience at center in order to spell Matt Birk. The Ravens had hoped that Chester could be the heir apparent to Birk but he struggles against 3-4 defenses and that’s exactly what you don’t want from your center when your archrivals are the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Many believe that Dawan Landry will move on to greener pastures and a battle will ensue for his vacated starting spot. The probable combatants are Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura. Zbikowski is the more physical of the two players and Nakamura the more accomplished cover safety. Given the presence of Ed Reed many will conclude that the more physical player is the logical complement.

But the game has changed and it has morphed into a predominantly passing league. The traditional free safety and strong safety labels may no longer apply. If you think back to the 2008 season, Reed and then sidekick Jim Leonhard worked well as a tandem. There’s no reason why the smaller Nakamura, a player with solid instincts, can’t do the same as Leonhard. And if you are keeping score on size, Leonhard is 5’8”, 188 lbs., Nakamura, 5’10”, 200 and Zbikowski, 5’11”, and ranges from 200-210.

Recently Ed Reed was interviewed by ESPN’s Ed Werder. During the interview Reed expressed his affection for Rex Ryan and stated that the team wanted Ryan to become the Ravens’ head coach after Brian Billick was fired. It was intended as a knock on Harbaugh who they barely knew (if at all) at the time.

Bart Scott in a recent interview with Pro Football Focus tried to expand upon Reed’s sentiments:

"I’m sure you guys are into the news and heard what Ed Reed said a couple of weeks ago about how disappointed he was and about how he wanted Rex to get the head job in Baltimore. No disrespect to John Harbaugh, but just how much he respected Rex, as well. It’s not just me. It’s anybody you talk to about the man. In life, you’re afforded a couple of special people. Not special coaches. You’re afforded special people. He’s a special person. When you find that special person, you know. Not only do I recognize it, but everybody to ever play for him recognizes it. It had nothing to do with him being a head coach or a coordinator. The same respect was given to him when he was a D-line coach. You know when people have the “it” factor? You know when somebody’s special."

Despite the affection of the Ravens’ players, Ryan was not the right guy to succeed Billick. The defense had far too much command of the team’s locker room already and installing Ryan as the head coach could have exacerbated the problem.

What the Ravens wanted and got with John Harbaugh is someone new and completely removed from the divisiveness of the 2007 squad. They also wanted someone more mature than Ryan who despite his successes so far in New York has proven to be a public relations train wreck saved only by his winning seasons.

Let’s see how it all goes down if the Jets begin to lose.

Perhaps then all his shenanigans with toes, flipping the bird to fans, having a “God d**n snack” and wearing wigs will go from amusing to embarrassing.
Make no mistake about it, long-term Harbaugh is a far better choice.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of and His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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