The most pleasing sight for Ravens officials during the first week of organized team activities had to be Kelechi Osemele popping off the ball and running around the field like a guy who was truly happy to be healthy again.
There's not enough contact in these OTAs to determine how healthy and strong Osemele is after his back surgery in November, but the third-year guard certainly looked the part, sprinting from drill to drill and to and from the huddle.
There is a lot of talk about the competition at right tackle, and that’s understandable. But a case could be made that the most important factor in improving the offensive line play is the health of Osemele. Many, though hardly all, of the Ravens’ issues running the ball last year could be traced to the amount of penetration the opposition was getting in the interior.
If Jeremy Zuttah is indeed an upgrade over Gino Gradkowski and Osemele finds the form he showed in his rookie season, that will improve things significantly. Ravens officials thought Osemele was well on his way to developing into a Pro Bowl-caliber guard before his back issues started affecting his play. If you had forgotten how well Osemele played after getting moved to guard in his rookie season, watch Super Bowl XLVII over again and see how he handled San Francisco 49ers standout defensive lineman Justin Smith.
** The move of former center Ryan Jensen to offensive tackle is probably a much worse development for Jah Reid than the calf injury that could sideline Reid for the various minicamps. The Ravens are high on Jensen, evidenced by the fact that they kept him on the active roster all last season despite him being unavailable for much of the first couple months because of a foot injury. If Rick Wagner wins the starting right tackle job and Jensen proves capable of backing him up while also offering the flexibility to play every other position along the line, it’s hard to foresee a role for Reid. The Ravens already have a ton of depth along the interior of the offensive line with Gradkowski, Will Rackley, A.Q. Shipley and fifth-round pick John Urschel among those bidding for backup roles behind Zuttah and projected starting guards Osemele and Marshal Yanda. Reid is seemingly on the roster bubble every training camp, but a cursory glance at the Ravens’ roster tells you that he’s in for an uphill battle to make the 2014 roster out of training camp.
** For the most part, I think all the media talk of who looks in great -- and subpar -- shape at this time of year is largely overblown. Training camp is still a month-and-a-half away after all, and just because a player is in great shape now, doesn’t mean that he’ll be able to maintain it throughout the season. But one guy who I don’t think the questions are overblown with is strong-side linebacker Courtney Upshaw. And I mention this only because conditioning has been an issue for Upshaw in the past, so much so that coach John Harbaugh publicly criticized his eating habits last year. For what it’s worth, I watched Upshaw at last week’s OTA, and it was tough to tell one way or the other because he had a hooded sweatshirt on under his jersey.
** Harbaugh’s injury report was largely positive, but his admission that second-year wide receiver Aaron Mellette is still experiencing some issues and swelling in his surgically-repaired knee is a little alarming. When Mellette was shut down and placed on injured reserve last September, the knee surgery he underwent was described as relatively minor, a cleanup. However, he’s obviously still experiencing a few problems more than 8 months later. The Ravens have 12 wide receivers on the roster, so it’s going to be tough for any of the unproven young guys to move up the depth chart if they can’t consistently practice. The same goes for seventh-round pick Michael Campanaro, who is currently dealing with a hamstring injury. Harbaugh made it clear last week that the team needs Campanaro (River Hill) on the field getting reps.