Ravens' Cousins learning fast at right tackle

Gaither could be in for battle if he remains sidelined

  • Ravens offensive tackles Michael Oher, left, and Oniel Cousins take part in an offseason minicamp in Owings Mills.
Ravens offensive tackles Michael Oher, left, and Oniel Cousins… (Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd…)
May 18, 2010|By Jamison Hensley, The Baltimore Sun

As Jared Gaither sat out his fourth straight practice with a foot injury, another Ravens offensive tackle was working hard to make up for missed time at Tuesday's passing camp.

Oniel Cousins was back on the field one day after battling strep throat, showing the same fight that has often gotten him involved in on-field scuffles.

The more the Ravens see of Cousins, the more they like him. In a couple of seasons, Cousins has gone from a "project" to someone the coaches can project to be a starting offensive lineman.

"He's got left-tackle feet. He's got right-tackle temperament," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "In his lifetime, he just hasn't played a ton of football. But he is developing quickly because he works at it hard."

A native of Jamaica, Cousins didn't suit up for football until his sophomore year of high school. He primarily played soccer before arriving in the United States at age 15.

Cousins' experience on the offensive side of the ball was limited because he came to the University of Texas-El Paso as a defensive tackle.

He played only two seasons at offensive tackle before the Ravens used a third-round pick on him in 2008.

"I think I've come a long way and I continue to move forward," Cousins said. "If I'm called upon, I'll be ready to go."

The Ravens already had to call on Cousins this offseason when Gaither failed to finish the first minicamp practice earlier this month.

Gaither has been diagnosed with bruising on the bottom of his foot, an injury coach John Harbaugh called "nothing major."

According to Harbaugh, Gaither tested orthotic insoles Monday but wasn't comfortable with them. He will receive a cortisone shot to speed up the healing process. "He should be back here quickly," Harbaugh said.

Because Cousins was sick earlier this week, the Ravens filled Gaither's spot at passing camp by moving Marshal Yanda from right guard to right tackle and putting Chris Chester at right guard.

But the Ravens had Cousins at right tackle for the first minicamp and would likely start him there if Gaither was injured during the regular season, just as they did for three games in December.

Cousins was solid in his first two starts, which came against the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears. And other than three plays that didn't go well, Cousins "played really good against Pittsburgh," according to Cameron.

He allowed back-to-back sacks to LaMarr Woodley on the Ravens' final possession, which allowed the Steelers to squeeze out a 23-20 victory.

"Woodley has done a lot of things to a lot of right tackles," Cameron said.

As a rookie, Cousins made a strong first impression, getting into a couple of fights early in training camp. These days, he remains just as competitive, but he is focusing his energy on improving as a blocker.

Cousins has added 15 to 20 pounds of muscle this offseason and has worked hard to refine his technique.

"I have expectations of myself and they are real high," Cousins said. "I want to be the best at what I do."

Dependability and toughness are two of the top qualities that the Ravens' coaching staff wants in an offensive lineman.

"We all know offensive line play is really the unit, not the individual talent," Cameron said after the first minicamp.

"We're going with five guys that give us the best continuity that can grow together."

Notes: Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb is "ahead of schedule significantly" in his rehab from a torn ACL, Harbaugh said. Webb tore the ligament in his knee Dec. 20 against the Chicago Bears and was placed on injured reserve. During Tuesday's practice, he was working off to the side, cutting and backpedaling to test the knee. "Lardarius has been here every single day — holidays, weekends," Harbaugh said. "He's been really doing beyond what you would expect him to do. He's doing really well." … Backup quarterback Troy Smith will be out a couple of weeks after having his tonsils removed in Cleveland. He was inactive for the first five games of the 2008 season because he had severe tonsillitis. … Backup nose tackle Brandon McKinney is looking to return for training camp after having back surgery in February. … There were six players who were absent from the voluntary passing camp: linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, wide receiver Derrick Mason, running back Willis McGahee, defensive end Trevor Pryce and defensive end Paul Kruger (excused absence). The Ravens had 14 players sidelined because of injury: quarterback Smith (tonsils), safety Ed Reed (hip), cornerbacks Webb (knee) and Fabian Washington (knee), running back Matt Lawrence (knee), linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (quadriceps), offensive tackles Gaither (foot) and Ramon Harewood (knee), wide receivers Mark Clayton (shoulder) and Marcus Smith (knee), defensive tackles Haloti Ngata (chest) and Terrence Cody (undisclosed) and nose tackles Kelly Gregg (shoulder) and Brandon McKinney (disc). Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson (shoulder) participated in individual drills.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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