In the Baltimore Ravens‘ Week 1 defeat at the hands of the Denver Broncos, the offensive line lost one of its pivotal members along the front five in Michael Oher. Oher left with an ankle injury, and he even called it the worst sprain of his career. However, the former Ole Miss Rebel will be taking the field Sunday when Baltimore takes on the Cleveland Browns at M&T Bank Stadium.
The five-year veteran has yet to miss a game in his NFL career, and it appears as if his 66-game starting streak will continue.
His status looked bleak early on in the week for the Ravens, as the 25 year old missed practice time and appeared to still be hampered with the injury. When the Ravens took the field at their training facility in Owings Mills on Thursday, the tides changed as Oher was a full participant in practice and showed encouraging signs that he had bounced back.
Oher will not be at full strength Sunday, but having his presence on the field will be a significant bonus, as opposed to trotting out rookie right tackle/guard Rick Wagner.
For a first NFL appearance, Wagner looked like a guy who pegged Week 1 as a game he’ll just watch and take mental reps for, rather than being ready to actually play. The former Wisconsin Badger was asked to complete a tall task during Week 1 in protecting Joe Flacco, despite the Broncos not having their top pass-rusher, Von Miller, available due to suspension.
The main reason as to why Oher is needed Sunday? Browns’ outside linebacker/defensive end Paul Kruger.
The former Raven is excited to play his former team that couldn’t afford to pay him $40 million over the next five years. The former Utah Ute has a reason to be excited, as he worked against this offense in practice for four seasons and has to have an idea of what Flacco’s snap count and cadences sound like.
Being a great pass rusher is about speed, power and an uncanny ability to know your opponent and outsmart them. Kruger has the advantage of being able to guess less and play more instinctively, but the same can be said for Oher. Keep in mind, he went opposite Kruger, at least the few times, during his tenure with the Ravens. Michael probably knows about Kruger’s speed-to-power and hand-fighting techniques already. It’s something he has been accustomed to, whereas Wagner has not.
Oher’s ability to stop the 27-year-old speed-rusher will be one of the keys to the Ravens having success on offense as Kruger predominantly rushes against right tackles. It will be interesting to see if Oher will be able to keep up with Krugers speed and quickness, but given that they’ve both had many battles on the practice field during the early stages of their NFL careers, it should be a dandy game to watch.