Ravens confident in Oher, at any spot

OWINGS MILLS -- As soon as the football is snapped, Baltimore Ravens rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher's quick-twitch movement is so fast that he almost appears to be committing a false start as he retreats into his pass protection stance.

It's a natural, athletic motion performed with uncanny quickness, and it's another reason why the Ravens are so comfortable with having Oher preparing to start his first NFL game at left tackle on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

With starting left tackle Jared Gaither likely sidelined with a neck injury, Oher is expected to draw the assignment of blocking NFL sacks leader Antwan Odom.

Oher shifted over from the right side against the New England Patriots when Gaither was carted off the field in the second quarter, and he excelled despite the chaotic nature of having to make an unexpected switch.

"It's difficult, but you've got to adjust really fast," Oher said. "You've got to play the game and do everything you possibly can to be ready to play.

"I've played left tackle before, but it's a big difference going from right to left after getting comfortable at one position. It's something I've got to do and something I'm preparing for."

The Ravens' first-round draft pick has a strong background on the left side as a consensus All-American blocker at Ole Miss who started 47 games. He won the Jacobs Blocking trophy as a senior as the top offensive lineman in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference.

Because of his mobility, fundamentals and upper body strength, Oher seems well-equipped to deal with the change.

"Mike was a left tackle in college and that helped him, but he works on it every week," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It just says a lot about him as a player and a student of the game."

With Oher moving over to the left side, the Ravens plugged in Marshal Yanda at his old right tackle spot after playing guard for the past two seasons.

And Yanda held his own.

"Michael did an outstanding job, which didn't surprise any of us, moving over to left tackle," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "Marshal Yanda played phenomenal in the game the other day at right tackle. He hasn't played right tackle in a whole, so we've got answers."

Oher has a formidable task in blocking Odom, who's tied with Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil for the league lead with eight sacks.

Odom is big, strong, fast and tough.

"He's got great explosion, he's got strength," Cameron said. "There aren't a ton of pass rushers that are just getting sacks right and left by themselves.

"If you hang onto the ball too long, they're going to sack you. So, you've got to be careful, especially when they're in a four-man rush, how long you hang onto the football."

The 6-foot-5, 285-pound Odom tied Eddie Edwards' franchise record with five sacks against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 20.

It was the most sacks in an NFL game since New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora's six sacks against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 30, 2007.

"He's done it in a lot of different ways," Harbaugh said. "He's done it on moves, he's done it on straight rush. He's lined up inside, he's lined up outside.

"He's kind of their go-to guy in pass rush, and they have some other good pass rushers, too, so he's done really well."

Odom is on pace for 32 sacks, which would set an NFL record. However, he seems to be cooling down and had one sack against the Cleveland Browns. "He's a high-motor guy, big and physical," Oher said. "He has all the tools."

So does Oher, though.

The quiet 6-foot-4, 310-pounder is being trusted to protect quarterback Joe Flacco's blind side. His rare movement and aggressiveness are big factors in his development.

Oher mauls defensive linemen at the point of attack, firing off the line of scrimmage and getting into their chests with a powerful hand punch. He finishes off his blocks, driving into opponents until he hears the echo of the whistle blowing.

"Michael Oher is a beast," former Ravens offensive tackle Spencer Folau said. "Everything he does is explosive. He's got the right mentality to play this game and be very, very good for a long time."

Even with Gaither's presence, it's a strong possibility that left tackle could ultimately be Oher's future position.

As a left tackle, Oher could even more valuable to the Ravens long-term because of his versatility and quickness.

Oher said he doesn't have a preference between the two positions, but has described left tackle as feeling like home in the past.

"I feel suited to play football," he said. "It really doesn't matter to me."


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