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Who Will Win these Positional Battles?

Blitzkrieg Mit Kruger! Can he be as productive as a starter?

Now that the rookies have arrived and the bulk of the free-agent movement has passed, the Ravens have the core of their roster in place that they will take into training camp.

So now seems as good a time as any to take a look at the some of the key positional battles to watch over the course of the off-season.

Wide Receiver: The first two receiver spots appear firmly in the grasp of Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, but after that there are five players vying for the third and fourth receiver jobs.

It’s a crowded field to say the least for the third reciever spot. Mostly likely recent free agent acquisition Jacoby Jones should be considered the favorite. However that doesn’t mean that a strong camp from either Tandon Doss, Laquan Williams, David Reed or rookie Tommy Streeter wouldn’t push Jones to being just a return man.

Left Guard: This battle will likely come down to three of the Ravens’ youngest lineman: second-year lineman Jah Reid and rookies Kelechi Osemele and Gino Gradkowski.

I really think this is a two man race with Gradkowski out due to the fact that he lacks the size of either Osemele or Reid. He’s seems to be more of a long-term project.

Reid played mostly in Jumbo packages last season and held his own but the question remains as to weather or not he could convert to Guard. Osemele does have some experience at the position, so somewhow I feel that he may be the inside favorite at this point.

Outside Linebacker: Both outside linebacker positions will be up for grabs in training camp this year, as Jarret Johnson left in free agency and Terrell Suggs is out for an unspecified amount of time with an Achilles tendon injury.

The likely candidates for the starting jobs are Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle, Albert McClellan and rookie Courtney Upshaw.

Kruger has the most experience of the group and after several years became a pass rushing contributor this past season. He’ll need to take that next step to progress from a situational player to an NFL starter.

This could be make of break for Kindle who is in his third season with the Ravens. He still has a lot to prove.

McClellan spent most of last season as an inside linebacker, even starting in place of Ray Lewis when Lewis was down with a toe injury and surprised most with some solid play. Can he switch to the Outside?

Upshaw played on one of the best defenses in the nation last year and was a rush linebacker, much like Suggs was. This seems like a natural fit here but let’s remember that he’s still a rookie.

Running Back: After Ricky Williams suddenly retired this offseason, the No. 2 running back spot will be a battle between second-year backs Anthony Allen and Damien Berry and rookie Bernard Pierce.

Each player brings a different style to the mix, but no one is really sure who has the edge in the race to back-up Ray Rice just yet.

Cornerback: This is one of the deepest positions for the Ravens (Imagine that), as former first-round pick Jimmy Smith and last year’s starter Cary Williams will compete for the No. 2 spot next to Lardarius Webb.

In today’s pass happy NFL all three will see plenty of time but I’d be surprised if Smith doesn’t get the bulk of the work next to Webb as the starter when the 2012 season begins.


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