To start, Grubbs needs to seize spot

Ravens won't hand offensive line job to first-round pick

May 17, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Sun reporter

From Kyle Boller to Mark Clayton to Haloti Ngata, the Ravens have shown no hesitation in starting their first-round picks right away.

But that doesn't mean they are handing the starting right guard job to Ben Grubbs.

During offseason camps and perhaps through training camp, the Ravens want Grubbs to prove he should be the team's first rookie offensive lineman since Jonathan Ogden in 1996 to start a season opener.

"Ben's got to earn his stripes, although we've got a lot of optimism for him," said coach Brian Billick, whose Ravens began their first minicamp of the year yesterday.

Grubbs, the 29th overall pick in last month's NFL draft, will compete with veteran Keydrick Vincent for the starting right guard spot and is considered the favorite to win it in training camp.

After showing a blend of power and quickness at Auburn, Grubbs was the consensus top guard in the draft. Vincent, a two-year starter for the Ravens, is entering the final year of his contract.

"Ben certainly has the athletic ability, temperament and intelligence," Billick said. "Now, he just has to show that he can do it."

Grubbs probably will be the only new starter on the offensive line when the regular season begins Sept. 10 at Cincinnati.

Ogden and Adam Terry are locks at the tackle spots, and left guard Jason Brown and center Mike Flynn have a good shot to remain starters for the beginning of the season.

But the Ravens are extremely high on Chris Chester, an athletic second-round pick in 2006. He will push Flynn and Brown in training camp and could become the starting center during the season.

"Chris' future is at center, although we saw him to be very functional at guard last season," Billick said.

The Ravens' personality on the offensive line has undergone a distinct change in recent seasons.

When Jamal Lewis was running over defenses in 2003, his offensive line was a mauling one with just one starter who was a first-day draft pick (Ogden).

Now, the Ravens have a more athletic look and a different pedigree. If Grubbs and Chester become starters, the Ravens' offensive line will have four starters who were first-day picks.

"Clearly, this is the most assets we have had on the offensive line since I've been here," Billick said.

It'll be tough to gauge how the offensive line is shaping up in the offseason.

There is minimal contact in the five weeks of minicamps (15 total practices), and the players don't suit up in pads. Most of the time, the offensive and defensive linemen will work on drills off to the side while the rest of the team focuses on getting the rhythm down in the passing game.

"We certainly aren't going to come out of [minicamps] with some sort of ranking; that's all about training camp," Billick said. "Any conclusion you would draw would be a false one. That'll take care of itself."

Notes -- Former NFL defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will continue his role as a special assistant for the team. In addition to adding another set of eyes in the coaching booth on game days, he helps the staff by breaking down film and finding other teams' tendencies. Fangio was hired by the Ravens at the start of the regular season last year. "He's a great resource to tap into," Billick said. ... When Billick speaks at the Johns Hopkins graduation today, he promises to deliver a different speech from the one he gave two years ago. "No vasectomy stories this time," he said. At the 2005 commencement for the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Billick spoke about "empathy training" for those who will enter the medical field and began his speech by talking about how nurses asked for his autograph in the middle of his vasectomy. ... The Ravens will hold their annual clinic for high school and youth football coaches Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Registration begins at 7 a.m. The fee is $20 per coach.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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