Oher May Face NFL Sack Leader

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When left tackle Jared Gaither was knocked out of last week's game against the New England Patriots, the Ravens looked right.

That was in the direction of rookie right tackle Michael Oher, who effortlessly slid down the line to take over for the injured Gaither (neck) while Marshal Yanda went in at right tackle.

The Ravens don't know when Gaither will be back – after all, he was wearing a neck brace on Wednesday – but they are comfortable with the young lineman protecting quarterback Joe Flacco's blind side, even with Oher possibly facing the Bengals NFL sack leader Antwan Odom Sunday.

Oher switching positions is a scenario Baltimore has been preparing for since he was drafted as one of the top-rated left tackles out of the University of Mississippi. While at Ole Miss, Oher started 47 contests on the left side and was a first-team All-American and All-SEC honoree as a senior.

In each practice, the Ravens make sure Oher gets repetitions on both sides to keep him fresh at either position.

"Mike was a left tackle in college. That helped him, but he works on it every week," said head coach John Harbaugh. "John [Matsko, offensive line coach] does a great job of moving those guys around, so we've got different backup plans.

"You've only got seven, usually, lineman up [on the 45-man roster], so you've got to have multiple combinations to make sure you've got all your positions backed up. It just says a lot about him as a player and a student of the game."

Yanda's performance was nothing new. He started 12 games for the Ravens at right tackle in 2007 before three torn knee ligaments last year ended his 2008 campaign early.

But for Oher, 23, a switch in the midst of a heated game would have been a tall order for a lesser player. Ravens tackle Adam Terry, who is on Injured Reserve with a knee injury but served as a swing tackle, once likened such a move from the right to the left to writing with either hand.

Center Matt Birk, who has six Pro Bowls to his credit, came away impressed.

"Michael Oher going from one side to the other… How many guys can do that in their fourth game in the NFL?" Birk wondered. "That shows you how special he is. We have two really good tackles, and we have some good backup tackles, I guess, if you want to call them that. Marshal Yanda went in there and played awful well. We've got some depth there, and that's a big plus for us."

Oher faces another big test this weekend with the Cincinnati Bengals and NFL sack leader Antwan Odom coming to Baltimore.

Odom, who is tied with Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil with eight sacks, is a sixth-year veteran with a stellar combination of size (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) and speed.

He even posted five sacks against Green Bay on Sept. 20, tying a franchise record.

"He's done it in a lot of different ways," Harbaugh said of Odom. "He's done it on moves, he's done it on gains, 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."

Oher will counter with his excellent athleticism and a mauling sensibility that shows when he consistently blocks defenders to the ground until the whistle blows.

The 23rd-overall selection believes he will be ready for Odom after a full week of practice at left tackle with the rest of the first-teamers as long as Gaither is sidelined.

"I've played left tackle before, and it's a big difference playing left and right," Oher noted. "It's just something I've got to do and prepare for.
Hopefully, we'll get Jared back, because we'll miss him.

"I take some reps every day in practice, but I'm going to get a lot of them this week."

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