Baltimore Ravens tackle Michael Oher reached movie screens at the same time he reached the NFL after a stellar career at Ole Miss. Oher was the star of the 2009 hit movie “The Blind Side,” which told the rags-to-riches story of the 6-foot,4-inch, 313-pound tackle. That same year, he exploded onto the NFL scene as a ferocious right tackle, helping the Ravens to a divisional title.
But Oher achieved mixed results when he moved to left tackle last season, protecting quarterback Joe Flacco’s “blind side.” Now, Oher is moving back to his rookie position at right tackle after the team’s recent signing of veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie. So the AFRO asks: is Oher a bust on the blind side?
Riley: I don’t watch a lot of Ravens games, but in the games I saw last season Oher struggled badly. Penalties and sacks defined his sophomore season, a far cry from the promise he showed in his rookie campaign. The fact that Ozzie Newsome brought in McKinnie, a former All-Pro left tackle who was reported to be 65 pounds overweight this preseason and had a disastrous 2010 campaign of his own, to replace Oher speaks loudly to me about the team’s confidence in their 2009 first-round pick.
Green: The offense set records last season with Oher playing the left side, so I’m not sure I buy the “he struggled badly last year” story. Oher wasn’t dominant, but he wasn’t lousy either. Personally I feel he had a solid campaign considering all the factors. And if the team had to go into the season with Oher at the left side I would feel confident that the Ravens offensive line would hold up without falling apart.
Riley: Thankfully you’re not Newsome, because apparently he doesn’t feel comfortable going into the season with Oher at left tackle. If Oher was the answer at left tackle, then the Ravens would’ve kept him there and signed a right tackle instead. Football teams typically don’t draft tackles in the first round to station them on the right side unless they can’t hold down the blind side position; there’s too much money involved for a first-round pick’s contract. Then the club goes and signs a left tackle who, by all accounts, was part of a unit that almost got Brett Favre assassinated last year. The move reeks of desperation.
Green: Oher wasn’t drafted to play left tackle—he was drafted to play any position Baltimore needed him to play. He has college experience playing both sides and performed well in both roles. He’s solid enough at left tackle to play the position and he didn’t really play much better at right tackle, as people assume. Despite a few struggles last year, it doesn’t negate the fact that Oher can play both positions well enough to keep Joe Flacco clean and upright for a victory. Placing Oher back on the right will stabilize the line since rookie third-rounder Jah Reid couldn’t cut it there. The team will likely move Oher back to the left after this season and entrench him as their future blind side tackle.
Riley: You keep saying he was solid last season and now he’s the future left tackle. But seven sacks allowed, numerous penalties and a dip in run-production last season isn’t “solid” at all. Baltimore running backs had their yards-per-carry average drop to 3.8 yards with Oher manning the left side and the Ravens led the NFL with 23 runs for a negative gain to the left of their offensive line. Former Raven Jared Gaither gave the team a better presence at left tackle; letting him walk could come back to hurt the team. And again, if Oher was the club’s future left sider, then they wouldn’t be swinging him back and forth on the line.
Green: I’m willing to bet Oher starts four or five games on the left this year even with McKinnie on roster—he’s good enough to be moved from side to side—and one season doesn’t make him a failure there. Take a look at Anquan Boldin’s 33-yard catch that led to the team’s first score against Washington on Aug. 25. Flacco had all day to throw because Oher was manhandling the Redskins’ defensive end. Or look at Ray Rice’s touchdown rush to the left side, where Oher caved in the line so Rice could breeze through. Oher’s clearly a significant talent and has a place on the left side, if needed. But for now, the team will use its best offensive line weapon to fill their biggest need, which is at right tackle.