During the Ravens passing camp rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher has been practicing with the first team offense a well as the second team and the third team. In fact Oher has been on the field playing right tackle for almost every snap taken. With Adam Terry coming off knee surgery and Oniel Cousins recovering from a torn left pectoral, Oher has been getting tons of reps. This early experience should go along way in the rookie’s development going into 2009.
A major concern about Oher going into the draft was how quickly he would be able to learn the complicated blocking schemes of an NFL offense, so far so good. Oher reportedly met with John Harbaugh and Cam Cameron before the Ravens first minicamp to discuss the teams offensive system. Oher took home the playbook and studied it late into the night trying to absorb as much as possible.
So far Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron has showered his young tackle with praise. “He’s probably one of the first rookies I’ve seen in a while that came in and for the most part knew the [playbook] ahead of time. He got ahead of the game, and I think he’s going to try to stay ahead of the game.”
Defensive players who are going up against Oher have also taken notice of his rapid development; both Trevor Pryce and Jarret Johnson have praised the fact that he is learning from his mistakes. After Johnson abused Oher during a series early in camp, the rookie came back the next day with improved arm placement and dominated the veteran linebacker.
At 6-5 309 pounds Oher has prototypical size for an offense tackle. I think an unexpected surprise has been Oher’s athleticism for his size. Oher has the ability to get to the second level and block linebackers, something that will be a great advantage for the Ravens running backs in 2009.
Another positive with adding a solid offensive lineman to play opposite Jared Gather will be that running backs and tight ends that were forced to stay in and block last season will be able to become more active in the passing game. Todd Heap who caught just 35 passes last year in a full sixteen games should play more like the Pro Bowl tight end Ravens fans are accustomed to seeing. Heap was little more than a glorified offensive tackle last year and was torn apart on sports talk radio for his lack of production in the passing game. The simple truth to the situation was that Heap possessed more value as blocker to help out Willie Anderson and keep Joe Flacco upright during his rookie season than catching passes across the middle.
Oher has the potential to be the best lineman selected in the 2009 draft and being selected with the 23rd pick could be the steal of the draft. Ravens coaches will see what Oher is really made of once they put on pads but it looks like the Ravens have a pair of bookend tackles that could help keep Joe Flacco healthy and protected for quite a few years to come.