Oniel Cousins primarily played all 16 games as a backup with just one start last season, despite struggling from having a cyst removed from his esophagus.
This year, Cousins is battling for the starting right offensive tackle spot with the Baltimore Ravens and believes he has as good a shot as anybody. Also in the mix should be Jared Gaither, unless he is signed elsewhere in free agency; Ramon Harewood, last year’s sixth-round pick; rookie Jah Reid, this year’s third-round pick; and Tony Moll, primarily a backup in two seasons with the Ravens.
Cousins appeared to be in line for a starting role last year, but the Ravens moved Marshal Yanda from right guard to right tackle after Gaither was injured in training camp. Cousins is a physical run-blocker and a bit nasty, but his pass-blocking needs work.
He also could have taken control of the right tackle spot after three starts in 2009, but during a 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers he gave up consecutive sacks to LaMarr Woodley and basically was downgraded after that. He missed a couple weeks during training camp after throat surgery and never really got back in a groove. Much healthier now, Cousins is ready for camp.
Gaither started 15 games in 2008 and 11 in 2009, but he has played in just 33 games in four seasons — including none last year — with 28 starts. So, he’s relatively injury-prone and might not be the best for the Ravens.
Harewood also sat out all last season after surgery on both knees. If he can stay healthy this season, the 6-foot-6, 340-pound athletic Harewood has a huge upside. But he’s at least a year away.
Reid is expected to contribute on the O-line as well, but likely is a year away as well. Few rookies can start in the NFL on the offensive line, and with the Steelers as an opener it’s unlikely he’ll be pressed into duty
Moll started 18 games in three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, but he hasn’t been able to crack the starting lineup in two with the Ravens. All this means that Cousins probably has the inside track, but it doesn’t preclude the club signing a veteran free agent offensive tackle.