As offensive line struggles, what does the future hold for Michael Oher?
Ravens need to decide whether to leave him at left tackle or move him to another position, as well as what to do when he becomes a free agent after the 2013 season
Ogden, the first draft pick in Ravens history, could soon become the franchise's first homegrown player to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With his size, strength and athleticism, Ogden is seen by many as the prototypical left tackle. And he was selected to 11 Pro Bowls in his career.
Finally, after making sure to dull any criticism of Oher, the Ravens' current left tackle who has become a poster boy for the struggles of the entire offensive line, Ogden empathized and conceded: "It's tough out there."
"It's very rare to have a player at the position where you don't have to worry about them," he said.
The Ravens aren't outwardly expressing any concern for Oher, who has had trouble keeping his hands on pass rushers in recent weeks. Protection issues with the entire offensive line, not just Oher, have played a role in the uneven play of quarterback Joe Flacco. Oher's struggles have been the most glaring, though, putting his future at the position Ogden dominated for a decade in doubt.
Entering Sunday's game against the New York Giants, only six NFL quarterbacks have been sacked more than Flacco, who has been taken down behind the line of scrimmage 34 times, already three more than a season ago. The average time before Flacco is sacked is 3.47 seconds — linemen try to hold their blocks for 3 seconds — and all but one of those sacks took longer than 2.5 seconds.
Oher has been beaten for more sacks than any other Ravens lineman, and only four NFL tackles have allowed more sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
Whoever is to blame, the sacks are piling up, especially the ones coming from Flacco's blind side.
Oher was the subject of the best-selling book, "The Blind Side," which glorified the left tackle position while detailing Oher's uplifting life story. But Oher's play there has lapsed as he has been beaten for a sack in each of the past five games, according to Pro Football Focus.
Six of the eight sacks he has allowed in 2012 came over that span. Based on charting by Pro Football Focus, in addition to allowing the most sacks by a Ravens lineman this season, Oher has also surrendered the most overall pressures (40) on the team.
"You never want the quarterback getting hit. You want to limit that," Oher, 26, said. "We have to do it as a group, as an offense to help limit the hits on Joe and things like that."
In back-to-back losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Washington Redskins, Oher watched as his man got a step on him and swatted the ball out of Flacco's right hand. Those lost fumbles were costly in the losses and put the spotlight on Oher, something no lineman wants.
Ogden said Flacco's pocket awareness could have been better, but "that's a loss" for the tackle.
"Quarterbacks hold balls, but you don't point the finger at the quarterback," he said.
Critics have called for the Ravens to replace Oher with Bryant McKinnie, who was the team's starting left tackle last season, and move Oher back to right tackle, the position he manned in 2009 and 2011. But Ravens coach John Harbaugh has continually defended Oher and his fellow linemen, saying a week ago that he wasn't seriously considering making a change at left tackle.
On Wednesday, though, McKinnie, 33, who has not practiced well enough to bully his way back into the lineup, admitted increased playing time was a possibility, maybe as soon as Sunday.
"If I was out there, maybe some things would be a little bit different," McKinnie said.