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Friday, May 27, 2011
Pressure Point: Can Oher hold up?

By Matt Williamson
Scouts Inc.

Michael Oher
Michael Oher, whose life was chronicled in "The Blind Side," has had an up-and-down NFL career.
A weekly look at a player whose performance must improve in 2011.

There might not be an offensive lineman who entered the NFL with as much fanfare as Baltimore Ravens OT Michael Oher, a 2009 first-round pick whose rise from poverty to the NFL was chronicled in the Michael Lewis book "The Blind Side." There might not be a player in the league who is easier to root for, either.

On the field, though, Oher has had an up-and-down first two years. He certainly has not been a bust, but the Ravens definitely need more consistency from their left tackle.

Left guard Ben Grubbs and C Matt Birk are two of the best players in the league at their positions, and if Marshal Yanda returns as the starting right guard, Baltimore very well could have the best interior offensive line in the NFL. Things are less certain at tackle, however.

Oher played on the right side as a rookie with Jared Gaither on the left, and that was an ideal fit for both players. Gaither was a non-factor on 2010 because of injuries, though, and Oher moved to the left side. He struggled some at that position, but with Gaither's rocky career in Baltimore all but over Oher remains the best option at left tackle.

The Ravens used the 85th overall pick in the 2011 draft on OT Jah Reid, who has great size but needs plenty of technique work and will face an even tougher transition to the NFL because of practice time lost to the lockout. Yanda could also be an option -- and a very good one -- at right tackle if he returns, but it appears that no matter what Oher will remain on the left side.

Baltimore's overall offensive line play was mediocre last season, and although Oher is serviceable in the running game, he was a liability in pass protection. He doesn't have ideal length for a left tackle and is better going forward than playing in reverse, making him a better fit on the right side.

The Ravens drafted two tight ends -- Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta -- in 2010 and could use more two-tight end sets this season, which would help their tackles. But Reid is likely to get the nod on the right side, so Oher would get less help than he might need. That is a problem against good edge rushers, particularly Pittsburgh Steelers OLB and Ravens nemesis James Harrison.

Harrison gives Oher (and many other left tackles) fits -- go back to the 2010 playoffs for evidence. Baltimore is poised to stretch the field with more deep routes and seven-step drops, and Oher will be under even more pressure to hold up on the edge and sustain protection longer.

All this makes Oher an ideal candidate for the Pressure Point series. It should be noted that he only recently turned 25, and improvement could very well be on the horizon, but the 2011 season is shaping up as a critical one for Oher.

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