The Ravens' offense was piloted last year by then-rookie quarterback Joe Flacco!(/team/roster/joe-flacco/3e20766f-6520-4ca1-9901-44389aaea8b8/ "Joe Flacco"), and they've made no secret that they want to protect that position.
With rookie Michael Oher!(/team/roster/michael-oher/216c0a9c-c171-4ecf-8ab5-94e4c8f40736/ "Michael Oher") at right tackle and 23-year-old **Jared Gaither** entering his second year starting on the left side, the Ravens may have found Flacco's security detail for years to come.
Oher and Gaither could form one of the youngest – if not the youngest – starting offensive tackle duos in the NFL, should Oher win the job.
The Ravens envisioned Oher to eventually seize that spot when they traded up in the draft to select him 23rd-overall out of Ole Miss. That scenario was made even more likely when **Adam Terry** was placed on Injured Reserve with a knee injury.
"Michael knows that that's his job to win, and I think he's going about it like that," said head coach **John Harbaugh** about Oher's battle with **Oniel Cousins**. "It's not his job to lose; it's his job to win. He's trying to take it over, and take possession of it, so-to-speak. He's done a good job with it."
Already, the Ravens have been impressed with the 6-foot-4, 310-pounder's strength and toughness.
And, Oher has a mean streak that he wore like a badge in Baltimore's preseason opener against the Washington Redskins, when he needed stitches to close a bloody gash on his forehead.
On that play, his helmet came off as he nastily blocked veteran defensive end Reynaldo Wynn to the turf. Oher returned after getting patched up and continued to play well, totaling approximately 35 snaps at both right and left tackle.
"The things that we saw, that we knew that he was going to bring to the table, were there," said Harbaugh. "He's physical, he's got good feet, he can bend, he's smart. But all the technique stuff, he's going to be a work in progress for really years to come."
Gaither has the benefit of a full year protecting Flacco's blind side.
At 6-foot-9, 340 pounds, Gaither's immense size make him perfectly suited to the position.
But a background as a talented high school basketball player – Gaither nearly went to the University of South Carolina to play hoops – and a dedicated work ethic this offseason has him playing at a high level.
"I believed in myself and was confident in what I could do," said Gaither, who played in all 16 regular-season and three playoff games despite a painful late-season shoulder injury last year. "Now, I want to be the best. I'm not the best tackle in the league yet, so there's always room for improvement. Until I'm the best, I have a lot of work to do."
Offensive coordinator **Cam Cameron** thinks that Gaither must keep that attitude in order to take yet another step forward.
"The one thing young guys have to realize is everybody gets more familiar with them," Cameron explained. "You get better, you get worse, you don't stay the same. I think he's gotten better, but I think he'll realize too as these games start, people know a lot about him now. And they know the things he needs to improve on from last year.
"We know what they are, and now they need to show up on tape."
Having two such young tackles gives the Ravens a chance to mold them into elite players. With constant prodding from offensive line coach **John Matsko** and assistant **Andy Moeller**, the Ravens are staying close to both Gaither and Oher.
In a quarterback-driven league, Flacco is certainly a valuable commodity.
In a defensively-dominant division, Gaither and Oher will be shouldered with the burden of continually stonewalling elite pass rushers.
One of those players, four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle **Trevor Pryce**, lines up against the fledgling Ravens in each practice. Pryce sees a bright future for the bookends.
"There might be some struggles early," said the 13-year veteran. "In the regular season, the game picks up, and it gets a lot faster. But, Jared Gaither, that's old-hat to him. He's been a starter for a long time. Being a former basketball player, his feet move a lot quicker than offensive linemen's feet should move.
"I think Oher, he's catching up. He hasn't missed a practice. He hasn't gotten hurt. He comes out here and he's very quiet. He does his job and they're not yelling at him, so he's obviously doing a good job. I could tell you from first-hand experience, he's a strong, strong guy. I think they'll be just fine."