Ravens' Michael Oher hopes for permanent home at right tackle

In final year of rookie contract, 2009 first-round draft pick said he would 'prefer' position over left tackle

August 03, 2013|By Aaron Wilson, The Baltimore Sun

Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher's life story was immortalized in "The Blind Side," the 2009 inspirational movie about his emergence as a football star after being adopted by a wealthy family following a rough childhood.

The importance of the left tackle and how much promise Oher displayed at the position was a major premise of author Michael Lewis' book and the movie.

Heading into his fifth NFL season and the final year of his rookie contract, it's become increasingly clear that Oher has a chance to excel at right tackle rather than protecting the quarterback's blind side as a left tackle. On the right side of the offensive line is where Oher wants to play and where he'll line up this season since the Ravens signed left tackle Bryant McKinnie to a two-year, $7 million contract in May.

"I prefer playing right tackle," Oher said. "I've flip-flopped back and forth ever since I got here and played both sides, but I think right tackle is my best position. I think I'm better over there and the team is better with me over there."

Oher struggled during the regular season last year while starting every game at left tackle after McKinnie was benched. He allowed 10 sacks, the third-most in the NFL, and committed nine penalties, according to Pro Football Focus.

Oher has committed 45 penalties in four seasons, including 21 false-start infractions. Most of the penalties have occurred when the 2009 first-round draft pick has played left tackle.

"Oher's a natural right tackle, not a left tackle," said former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker, an analyst for Sirius Radio. "He's got more of the temperament of a right tackle because of how physical and aggressive he is. He's never really gotten his technique and pass protection to where he needed to get it in order to be an elite player or an above-average left tackle. He was more of an average left tackle because he doesn't have elite feet.

"His technique leaves something to be desired against skilled pass rushers, which gave him some problems at times. He gets by more on ability and attitude. He just looks so much more comfortable at right tackle. I'm still not sure whether he'll be an All-Pro-caliber player unless he's more consistent in pass protection, but I think keeping him at right tackle is the right move and good for his career."

Inserting McKinnie at left tackle and shifting Oher to right tackle led to the Ravens' success during the postseason.

Quarterback Joe Flacco had enough time to throw 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in four playoff victories, including a win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII when he was named the Most Valuable Player.

Playing every snap at right tackle during the playoffs, Oher allowed just one sack and six quarterback hurries. That included stonewalling Denver Broncos star pass rusher Von Miller, who had 18.5 sacks during the regular season last year.

After using Oher at right tackle as a rookie in 2009, at left tackle in 2010, at right tackle in 2011 and at left tackle last season until the playoffs, the Ravens are upbeat about his potential as a full-time right tackle.

"I've always thought Michael Oher's potential is the sky is the limit for Michael," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Michael Oher is a Pro Bowl tackle-type guy. We have always believed that. The fact that he can settle down on the right side now is probably something that will help him have the chance to achieve that.

"Michael having a chance to play on the right side throughout the whole offseason and through training camp should be a real benefit for him. He's had to make that move back and forth, and that makes him very versatile, but it's going to be good to get all of those reps under his belt going into the season."

The guiding principle of Oher's approach to football is based on toughness. He delivers a powerful hand punch to the chests of opposing defensive linemen and relishes contact. At every turn on the field, Oher is looking to hit people.

"I come out and work hard every day, left or right, it makes no difference," Oher said. "That's why I come to practice, to get better every single day. The Pro Bowl? To be honest with you, I really don't care about stuff like that anymore. I just try to get better and help the team win. That's all I can do right now is work on every single thing."

Off the field, Oher is one of the first players to offer guidance to teammates — from tips on studying film to counseling players when they cross the line on social media to philanthropy.

"I've always been a good teammate," said Oher, who has more than 277,000 followers on Twitter. "Since high school and college, guys always looked up to me because I lead by example. It helps the younger guys out.

"I'm getting my charitable foundation going. I'm going to do a lot of stuff in inner cities and all over Baltimore. I want to do something positive and give back."

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