Tackle Shift Makes Sense, But Not Now, Ogden Says

RAVENS INSIDER

December 15, 2009|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,mike.preston@baltsun.com

Former Ravens Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden has watched the team's starting offensive tackles play a couple of games this season, and he can envision left tackle Jared Gaither moving to the right side and rookie right tackle Michael Oher playing on the other.

But that's in the future.

Ogden, possibly the greatest left tackle in NFL history, said the two tackles should remain at their current spots for the rest of the season and that the Ravens might even want to keep them there for an additional year.

And what about 2011?

"I can see them switching because Oher is quicker and they might want to optimize Jared's size and strength," said Ogden, who was named to the Pro Bowl team 11 times during his 12-year career in Baltimore. "But for right now, this team is at its best when both are playing well at their current positions.

"And if they can get a pass-blocking tight end, they could really be on to something special."

Ogden, in town Sunday, watched the Ravens' 48-3 win over the Detroit Lions. Oher filled in for Gaither for the third time this season as Gaither sat out with a foot injury. As usual, Oher played well for Gaither, adding to speculation that the left tackle job soon will be his.

Ogden said he is aware that there are some at The Castle who want Oher to play on the left side, as he did at Mississippi before the Ravens made him their top pick in the college draft in April.

But Ogden wouldn't make that move. Not yet, anyway.

"They [the Ravens] got time. They got time to play with some stuff," Ogden said. "That kid, Oniel Cousins, did a real solid job Sunday. Granted, it was against Detroit, and you scored 48 points, but he could become a factor in this. But at this time, you got to go with your current lineup [Oher on the right and Gaither on the left] because it's the most effective group."

Ogden has liked Oher since the Ravens' first preseason game, when he knocked off the helmet of a Washington Redskin and then attacked him while he was on the ground.

"After that, I liked him," Ogden said. "Everybody has their moment when they come into their own. Mine came when I kicked a guy in his chest against the New York Jets. I like the way Michael Oher approaches a game. He has toughness, a mentality where he wants to dominate every play. He still needs time to develop, but it's all there."

Ogden has been a partial tutor for Gaither. There have been numerous comparisons between the two because of their size and long arms. Both are athletic.

But that's where the comparisons end. Ogden not only could dominate another team's top pass rusher, but he also could control the entire left side of a defensive line. Until the end of his career, when he was slowed by toe and ankle injuries, the Ravens never had to use a fullback or running back to chip-block with Ogden.

When Ogden pulled on a toss play, the heavens opened. Gaither isn't as powerful or agile.

"At times, he shows those flashes where he can dominate," Ogden said. "Then the next couple of times, you're asking yourself, 'Why did he just do that?' You really shouldn't be asking those questions about him after three years in the league, but you also have to remember that he came out early and is only 23 years old.

"He has showed progress, but not enough like it used to be."

Ogden said tackle play isn't as physical as it used to be throughout the NFL because fewer teams are running the ball and more teams are throwing. There are only a few he enjoys watching, such as the Tennessee Titans' Michael Roos, Philadelphia Eagles' Jason Peters and Denver Broncos' Ryan Clady.

"To be a dominating left tackle, you have to have the size and speed, as well as the desire, all of which comes from God," Ogden said. "You have to dominate on every play, regardless if it's a run or pass. Everybody can make a great block once in a while, but to dominate in football, you have to do it swing after swing."

Former Ravens guard-center Wally Williams, who played alongside Ogden, can one day see Oher replacing Gaither on the left side.

"When you have a guy who is the No. 1 pick, you never allow him to play your position," Williams said. "Even if you're hurt, you got to get back out there. Once they start playing your spot, you will never get them out of there."

Ogden said: "That's the truth, and it's a good point. I could potentially see that happening, moving Oher to the left side. You never say never. With Gaither moving to the right side, it wouldn't be a tough transition for him."

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