2012 Players To Watch: Michael Oher

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Michael Oher #74 of the Baltimore Ravens warms up prior to their AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Everyone knows about Baltimore Ravens' right tackle Michael Oher's rags to riches life story as it was portrayed in the blockbuster hit "The Blind Side". For most however, the story ended there. With Oher graduating college and being a first round draft pick in the NFL and he lived happily ever after... Right?

Not exactly. Oher did end up being a first round pick. He did end up becoming a millionaire and a starting lineman in the NFL but his struggles in life did not end with his graduation and entrance into Pros. The NFL has proven to have it's own set of obstacles for him to overcome.

When the Ravens traded up to draft Michael 23rd over all in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft, they envisioned him as the future anchor of their offensive line from the left tackle position. Oher struggled early at this position, getting beat by the bigger, faster and stronger NFL pass rushers. He also subsequently had his issues with penalties. Most frequently false starts. He was more than likely trying to overcompensate for his own shortcomings by getting an advantage over those lined up against him. The position was proving to be a bit too much for the young player as so much about the offense depends upon his success. The Ravens needed a more reliable player to man the blind side. At least until Oher was able to overcome his issues.

In 2011, three years after Oher joined the team, the Ravens signed Bryant McKinnie, a former Pro bowl tackle that had fallen out of favor with his former team, the Minnesota Vikings. McKinnie spent eight years with Minnesota after being drafted 7th over all in the 2002 NFL draft. He was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2009 but after the 2010 season he reportedly ballooned up to nearly 400lbs. during the off season causing the Vikings to label him expendable. The team released him in lieu of taking the cap hit by keeping his contract that season.

With Oher struggling at the left tackle position and a former Pro Bowler sitting open on the free agent market it is no surprise that the Ravens would want to bring him in to see for themselves what was going on with him. McKinnie had already shed a good portion of the weight he had gained when he met with the Ravens but was still no where near his playing weight. The Ravens told him that if he could shed the rest of his excess weight before the preseason they would be willing to offer him a contract to be their starting left tackle.

With the help of fellow Miami Hurricane alumni Ed Reed and Ray Lewis he was able to get his weight down enough to were the team was comfortable and shortly their after he became a Baltimore Raven. For the Ravens this move made them stronger at two positions, provided McKinnie was able to perform well on the field. They would have a legitimate NFL caliber left tackle and their current left tackle could move to the right side. A position in which he may be better suited for at the NFL level.

The move seemed to work out well for everyone involved. The Ravens have Super Bowl aspirations and did not have time for Michael Oher to learn the position in game situations. So, in McKinnie they found someone that could play there at a high level and teach Oher so maybe one day he could take over the spot once again. Oher, on the other hand, played the right tackle position quite well in 2011. He again had his issues with penalties but that started to slowly fade away as the season went on. Excluding the playoff game against the Houston Texans he finished the season playing as well as he has played in his short NFL career.

So here we are awaiting the 2012 season and the team has kept a close eye on Mckinnie to make sure he keeps his weight down and even loses a bit more so he can upgrade on his performance from 2011. They even went as far as to keep him out of the team OTA's in case he injured himself they didn't want to be responsible for his 2012 salary until they were sure he would be playing this season. This shows that the team has more confidence in Oher than they would in an over weight McKinnie at left tackle.

Reports from the Ravens facility are that McKinnie has been keeping his weight under control and all is going as planned for another Super Bowl run this season. As it looks now Michael Oher will once again be starting at right tackle, the best scenario for both he and the team. With both of their best tackles on the field quarterback Joe Flacco will have that split second longer he needs to find an open player and Oher can continue to adjust to NFL speed while not constantly facing the opposing teams best pass rusher.

If Oher can continue to impress and get better as he plays on the right side he could end up moving back to the left when the team eventually does part ways with McKinnie. Or, perhaps he will solidify himself at right tackle and the team can be satisfied knowing they have one less position to worry about every off season. This will be a big season for Oher and the Ravens organization will be playing close attention to his development so they know what to plan for next season.

All reports have been good so far. Oher has been spending much time at the teams training facility and looks to be working hard for the upcoming season. He has the ability he just needs to get his mind straight on the field and believe in himself once again. From reading the book about his life and then reading his side of the story as well, I can say that he has the resolve to overcome and he will end up being a very good player at the NFL level at the very least. In fact I wouldn't be surprised to see him make a Pro Bowl or two before it is all said and done.

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