Gaither is Ravens' biggest question mark

Offensive tackle has been an unpredictable drama king

June 14, 2010|By Mike Preston

Cornerback has become the weakness everyone seems to focus on when it comes to the Ravens, but there is still a lot of doubt surrounding the right offensive tackle position.

That's because fourth-year player Jared Gaither has become a drama king.

The Ravens made a smart move this offseason by switching second-year lineman Michael Oher to left tackle, and they were hoping Gaither would be comfortable moving back to the right side.

But Gaither, the former Maryland player, has been unpredictable. According to a team official, Gaither has only suited up twice for the organized minicamps, and participated in only two offseason weight-training sessions.

Gaither has been treated for a foot injury, but what has bothered some members of the coaching staff is that Gaither acts as if he really doesn't want to be around the team.

There is speculation that Gaither wants a new contract, but that isn't going to happen. There was trade talk about Gaither during the offseason, but no team wanted to ante up anything for him because of past and current problems.

The Ravens are stuck. If Gaither wants to play, then the Ravens are in good shape. If not, they'll move bulked-up guard Marshal Yanda to tackle and insert Chris Chester at right guard. The concern is, what happens if Yanda or Oher get hurt? The Ravens are in real trouble again because backup tackle Oniel Cousins isn't ready mentally or physically to be a starter.

This team would be much better if Gaither got it together, but until he grows up, the Ravens should keep their options open about trading him.

Flacco's new mentor

The Ravens want third-year quarterback Joe Flacco to take the next step, and there is a good chance that could happen with new quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn. This will be the first time Flacco will work with a coach who played the position in the NFL.

There is nothing like having a coach with that kind of experience, especially if he is a good communicator.

"Jim's been great," Flacco said. "He's a great guy, down to earth, real relaxed. He's been a great coach so far. I love every part of him being my coach, and I think the other guys are really liking him a lot, too. He has a lot to teach, and it's just going really well right now. We obviously will grow as the season goes on."

What types of things has Zorn discussed with Flacco?

"A lot about mobility and making sure you can stay in a position to move," Flacco said. "Making sure you stay in a position to be compact with the ball, and get place-to-place and do it with as little movement as possible, and be explosive. And I think it will help us all out a lot."

Harbaugh pushing through

Ravens coach John Harbaugh better be careful. He's coming close to pushing his team too hard, and if the Ravens get off to a slow start, things might start moving in the wrong direction.

If Harbaugh is smart, he'll use the recent slap on the wrist by the NFL for working his team too hard in offseason minicamps as an indicator for knowing when he can and can't push his team.

Harbaugh is the opposite of former coach Brian Billick, who didn't push his team enough. Here's how the players feel about both: Billick was a better coach Monday through Saturday because of his lenient policies, but Harbaugh is a better coach on game days.

Suggs on the spot

There were quite a few no-shows at the Ravens' last minicamp, but there are some guys you just don't worry about, like middle linebacker Ray Lewis and defensive end Trevor Pryce.

But defensive end-outside linebacker Terrell Suggs? Oh my.

Suggs has said publicly that he will be more like his old self in 2010. The hope is he doesn't turn in another clunker of a season like last year when he had only 4.5 sacks, and didn't get into really good shape until late in the season.

A lot of eyes will be on Suggs, his weight and physical condition when he reports to training camp in late July. He doesn't like to talk about the contract he signed last July, but I can't help myself. The Ravens gave him a six-year deal worth $63 million, $38 million of which was guaranteed.

My guess is that Suggs will come in at 275 and play at 270, 10 pounds over his playing weight earlier in his career, which isn't bad.

C-Mac on the market

Thank goodness there have been no inquiries about former Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister. He returned from a knee injury last year, and played briefly for the New Orleans Saints, but has not signed with a team for a 2010 training camp.

The word is that C-Mac is in good shape, but that injured knee isn't in playing shape because McAlister didn't rehab it that hard during the offseason.

Rice taking care of business

Running back Ray Rice is doing a lot more talking these days than he did in the previous two years. He is a bit cockier and more confident, and going to the Pro Bowl will have those kinds of effects on a player. But Rice also had a great offseason as far as the weight room, and that's a good sign for the future.

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