Oher Tough Enough

Rookie Tackle Bloodied, Comes Back For More

August 14, 2009|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,ken.murray@baltsun.com

True to the scouting report, Ravens rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher played quick and tough in Thursday night's preseason opener against the Washington Redskins.

Oher opened a gash on his forehead when he lost his helmet taking veteran defensive end Renaldo Wynn down on the Ravens' opening drive, but after getting three stitches, returned to deliver a sterling opening-night performance.

As he has shown throughout training camp, rookie Paul Kruger hustled from sideline to sideline as the starting linebacker replacing the injured Terrell Suggs. But it wasn't until the fourth quarter that he put his stamp on the game with a sack of Redskins quarterback Colt Brennan.

Right after the sack, with a Redskin down on the field, Suggs summoned Kruger over to the Ravens' bench with a word of advice on a counter move.

"He's an extravagant guy," Kruger said of Suggs. "He kind of does what he wants. You just go with it. He's definitely one of the guys who helps coach me. I look up to him a lot."

As first impressions go, Oher and Kruger, the Ravens' first- and second-round draft picks last April, made their Baltimore debuts something to remember in a 23-0 victory.

"It was a great experience," Oher said. "But I've still got to get a lot better."

Oher's first series in the NFL was notable for the fact that his helmet came off twice in the span of five plays. The first time it came off, he was blocking defensive end Andre Carter on a 34-yard pass play from Joe Flacco to Ray Rice.

The next time it came off, he got up bloodied.

On fourth-and-1 at the Washington 8, while Willis McGahee ran up the middle for 4 yards, Oher drove Wynn back toward the goal line away from the ball. Wynn toppled, and as Oher came down on top of him, his helmet came off. He hit Wynn's helmet with his face.

"It's nothing," Oher said, still wearing the bloody bandage on his forehead later. "It was not anything major."

The drive ended with a 21-yard field goal by Steve Hauschka and a 3-0 Ravens lead. Oher was replaced by Joe Reitz for the remainder of the quarter but returned in the second to do his most impressive work.

He won the battle against fellow-first-round draft pick Brian Orakpo, taking him to the ground on at least two occasions. Orakpo was the 13th pick in the round, Oher the 23rd.

"Yes, I did notice Michael out there," coach John Harbaugh said. "He was excited. We didn't have any doubts about his toughness."

All in all, Oher demonstrated the explosive quickness that earned him a spot among the elite college tackles last season, as well as the toughness it takes to play in the NFL. He was stout in pass protection, giving ground grudgingly, and effective in the run game. His quickness off the ball was apparent at every snap.

Kruger played in every series in the first half, and almost every play in the second quarter, but didn't get a tackle until the final play of the half. That came when the Redskins' Rock Cartwright ran to his left for a 5-yard gain before being brought down by Kruger and Tavares Gooden.

Kruger spent most of the first half in pursuit of plays away from him. He dropped into coverage on two zone blitzes, but the ball was not thrown at him either time.

"It's just how it goes," Kruger said. "It kind of goes in streaks. You know, you feel like a couple come your way, or you can go a series with nothing coming on your side or getting no opportunities. You have to hustle around the ball, fly around the field and do what you can."

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