Jack Cornell has gone from being undrafted to manning the right tackle position on the Ravens’ first offense.
The rookie has been rotating with second-round pick Kelechi Osemele at that spot. Those days may be numbered if Bryant McKinnie passes the conditioning test and returns to left tackle, which would shift Michael Oher back to right tackle. But for now, Cornell is living a dream.
“It’s definitely pretty awesome,” he said of lining up with Oher, center Matt Birk and guards Marshal Yanda and Bobbie Williams. “I just come in every day and try to fight my tail off and get better. I don’t really look at the depth chart or numbers or anything. I worry about myself and try to get better and do my job and focus on the things that I need to focus on to make this team.”
Cornell played mostly right guard at the University of Illinois, making all 19 career starts at guard. But Cornell said he worked at right tackle during the team’s offseason workouts and is getting accustomed to the responsibilities of the position.
“You’re dealing with a lot more space out there,” he said. “Inside, it’s a lot more condensed and there’s a lot less are for those guys to move around. And you’re dealing with faster guys on the edge. So that’s definitely something that’s pretty big.”
Cornell had one of his tougher days Tuesday. He failed to pick up inside linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who sacked quarterback Tyrod Taylor during a full-team exercise. And during one-on-one blocking drills with the defensive line, Cornell was beaten by rookie defensive end DeAngelo Tyson on back-to-back snaps.
Cornell, who said he has been sitting next to Yanda during meetings to get pointers, acknowledged that he has several areas in which he wants to improve.
“I don’t really focus on all the good things. I focus mostly on the things that I need to get better,” he said. “Those are the things that stand out in the meeting rooms. I’m just trying to get a sense of what I need to do better. Whether it’s technique or assignment-wise, I want to learn that stuff throughout the day and then come out to practice and trying to execute.”
Coach John Harbaugh has liked what he has seen thus far from Cornell, saying Monday, “He’s got an opportunity. He’s done a good job so far.”
No one is saying that the Ravens will open the regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals with Cornell starting at right tackle, but he said he’s willing to accept the challenge if given the opportunity.
“This is the NFL and certainly there’s always going to be pressure,” he said. “But I go back to what I said earlier. I have a tremendous passion for this game, and I love playing this game. I’ve been coached hard before, so I’m used to that aspect of it. I’m not afraid of a challenge, and I’m definitely ready to step up to the plate.”