Kelechi Osemele, a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, has been challenged throughout his rookie year. Growing pains were to be expected, but Osemele has passed most of the tests.
The latest came in Sunday’s 24-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the wild-card round, and he aced it. After starting every game during the regular season at right tackle, Osemele slid inside to left guard when the Ravens inserted Bryant McKinnie in the starting lineup and moved Michael Oher from left tackle to right tackle. It was his first start at guard since the preseason.
Osemele allowed just one quarterback hit in pass protection, according to Pro Football Focus, and he fared well in run blocking as the Ravens rushed for 172 yards and a touchdown Sunday.
“K.O. probably had the biggest adjustment to make,” offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said Wednesday. “But he played extremely well. I thought he blocked well. Obviously, he wasn’t perfect, and I think you’re going to see that he gets better and better over time.”
Osemele, who replaced the hobbled Jah Reid at left guard, downplayed the adjustment.
"It wasn't a tough adjustment,” the 6-foot-5, 333-pound lineman said. “It was really fun. I love playing it. I had a good time. I think it's good to have the best give guys out there."
Osemele said the mental aspect of the position change was most challenging, as he had to get used to "the calls being flipped." He added that it is easier to pass protect as a guard instead of at tackle, where he would have to deal with dangerous speed rushers like Denver's Von Miller.
The Ravens are expected to go with the same offensive line combination Saturday against the Broncos, who were tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks during the regular season. Osemele, who says he does not have a position preference going forward, is hopeful that he will pass his next big test.
"Whichever position helps us win the most games, that's the one that I want to play,” he said.