I remember when Michael Oher was drafted it was a no-brainer with the 29th overall pick. The Ravens had their right tackle of the future, a player who had dominated SEC ends from both sides of the line but predominantly on the left, would take over the position for a decade or more. However, I do not recall a single expert making the argument that he was an elite left tackle, which had caused him to slide further and further down the first round into the Ravens lap. They questioned his footwork, his reactions off the snap, and his ability to handle speed rushers. I don’t mean to make it out as though Michael Oher was considered a poor tackle by any means, but he was most decidedly a right tackle.
Thus is was out of necessity that the Ravens played him on the left side, the “blind side” when Jared Gaither went down during the 2009 season and the position was fraught with ineffectiveness. Oher stood up to the task and performed admirably in 5 starts at left tackle and was by far the best left tackle on the team even when Gaither was healthy. So it was no surprise today when during the team’s first minicamp of the offseason (by the way, didn’t the season end in February? Give them some damn time off!), it was Gaither on the right side and Oher who seemed firmly in place on the blind side.
I won’t turn this into yet another tear jerker about Michael Oher’s rise to greatness- he is the left tackle because of his commitment to the game and his talent at the position. By all accounts Jared Gaither has the talent- his size, speed, and strength have made him all along a project for this team to turn into a great tackle. He has the natural ability, but whether by his attitude, his work ethic, or his knowledge of the game, he has not cemented himself in his three years in Baltimore. Taken with a 5th round pick in the 2007 supplemental draft, hopes were high for Gaither, but he has never committed himself to his craft. Hopefully he will have more success on the right side, but it is sad that such a talented force has not taken the opportunity to make himself a cornerstone of the Ravens future.
In all honesty he is only 24 and has years left to develop, but his personality has resulted in the coaching staff losing patience with him even when his body has been through frequent injuries. His move to right tackle comes on the heels of more trade rumors, this time to the Buffalo Bills. They can add themselves to what feels like a dozen teams rumored to be considering a move for Gaither, which I would encourage the Ravens to consider. If Gaither is going to turn his career around, it won’t be in Baltimore- the man likely needs a change of scenery.
I can’t think of a better place for that to happen than Buffalo, where they have no one who has made more than a smattering starts at either tackle spot, all with miserable results. They will be forced to be patient with Gaither as he develops simply for lack of any better options at the position- they are like the Orioles lineup right now. The Bills were too enticed by C.J. Spiller’s talents to reach for a tackle with the 9th pick in the draft (the best tackles were already off the board), so they are left with a gaping hole at one of the most important positions on the field, one that will be essential for Spiller’s success.
Michael Oher has risen above the prognosticators who placed him firmly on the right side, and looks to be the Ravens’ left tackle of the future. Jared Gaither has failed to live up to the perhaps unfair amount of hype built on his physical prowess (reminiscent of the hype surrounding Bruce Campbell) and will either complement Oher on the right or find his way to another team. Either way, the Ravens will be better off.