Coffee Companion (9/4): Who starts at left guard?

SportsFootballBaltimore RavensKelechi OsemeleCincinnati BengalsNew York YankeesJoe Saunders

Every morning, Monday through Friday, blogger Matt Vensel will hook you up with reading material -- mostly on the Ravens but with some other Baltimore sports stuff, too -- to skim through as you slug down coffee and slack off at the start of your workday. That way he’ll have an excuse to do the same to start his workday, too.

The biggest question for the Ravens entering the season opener, at least offensively, is who will start along the offensive line. It hasn’t been officially announced, but reading the tea leaves, it seems likely that Bryant McKinnie will reclaim his starting left tackle spot and Michael Oher will be at right tackle. Matt Birk will start at center and Marshal Yanda, who was a Pro Bowl lineman for the first time in 2011, will start at right guard.

But who will start at left guard? The Ravens signed Bobbie Williams to a two-year deal worth a little under $3 million total. He will turn 36 later this month and his 2011 season was ended early by a broken ankle, which is still bothering him. Even if Williams starts Week 1, you can’t help but wonder if he can hold up until Week 17.

Meanwhile, Kelechi Osemele was very impressive during the preseason. There were some hiccups, but even casual fans can see how big and strong he is. He also impressed with his athleticism; on one play in the third game, he pulled from left guard to the right end to make a key block that sprung Ray Rice. The rookie played mostly tackle at Iowa State but he said Monday that he feels more comfortable at guard. That was surprising.

He didn't declare himself a starter, but his answer was curious.

"The feeling that I'm getting is that I'm going to pretty much have a substantial role as far as how my preseason went," the 2012 second-round pick said. "I'm not really sure how things are going to go as far as starting or at what point, but it feels like I'll have a pretty substantial role as far as what my coaches have been saying."

We may not know what that substantial role is until Monday night.

RUNNING IT BACK

Mike Preston believes that Kelechi Osemele should start at left guard against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1. … A day after agreeing to terms with former New England Patriots safety James Ihedigbo, the Ravens made room for Ihedigbo on the roster by cutting cornerback Danny Gorrer. … Outspoken as always, Ravens strong safety Bernard Pollard thinks the replacement referees may be overmatched during the regular season.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Ravens coach John Harbaugh will hold his first weekly news conference at 4 p.m. at the Under Armour Performance Center. We’ll see if he tips his hand when it comes to his starting lineup.

THREE AND OUT

John Eisenberg of Ravens.com writes about how the Ravens continue to rely on their draft picks to play big roles. … ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley points out that the Ravens (and the Pittsburgh Steelers) are old. … Don Banks from Sports Illustrated thinks the Ravens will finish 10-6, but in second place behind Pittsburgh in the AFC North.

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton says he is “good” after taking a hard hit during Cincinnati’s final preseason game. … Linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who dropped completely out of April’s draft, made Cincinnati’s 53-man roster. … Former Cincinnati wide receiver Cris Collinsworth thinks the future is bright for the Bengals.

SHAMELESS PLUG(S) OF THE DAY

In case you missed it, here is my story on All-Pro fullback Vonta Leach, who is a throwback, ahead of his time and a dying breed all at once. What will his role be if the Ravens go up-tempo and throw a lot this season?

AWAY FROM THE GRIDIRON

Thanks to a quality start from Joe Saunders, the Orioles beat the Toronto Blue Jays and pulled within one game of the New York Yankees. … Yesterday ended in the letter “y” so of course the O’s made some moves. … The Baltimore Grand Prix has come and gone, so now we might actually be able to drive downtown again.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Which five offensive linemen should start against the Bengals?

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