Gaither full of potential

Street Talk Gaither full of potential

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Jonathan Ogden has left the Baltimore Ravens’ locker room, walking into retirement with his future Hall of Fame legacy and his library of science fiction and mystery novels intact after a dozen years of revolutionizing the left tackle position.

With the conclusion of the J.O. era, the exit of the franchise’s inaugural draft pick has created a huge hole on the offensive line and a historic opportunity for the young man slated to replace him.

It’s Jared Gaither’s job to lose as the new primary protector of the quarterback’s blind side, and Ogden offered some advice.

"I would tell him, ‘Don’t try to be me, be Jared,’" Ogden said during his retirement press conference. "And, hopefully, Jared will be as good, if not better, one day. And doing the best you can will generally be enough. You don’t need that extra pressure."

Gaither, 22, has enough to deal with without the burden of the inevitable comparisons to an NFL legend named to 11 consecutive Pro Bowls at left tackle.

Gaither had a top role model, and now he’ll try to emulate Ogden’s game as he tries to fill his size 16 cleats.

“He’s helped me out a great deal," Gaither said. "I think anytime you can be around someone of his caliber, it can help you out a lot as a person and as a player on the field. He did a lot for me. Just being next to him and able to ask questions has helped me."

At 6-foot-9, 350 pounds, Gaither has the requisite size and athleticism as a former highly recruited basketball player. The questions surrounding the former University of Maryland player are his technique, work ethic and maturity after two inconclusive starts as a rookie.

"Jared Gaither has jumped into left tackle," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

"He’s not J.O. by any stretch, but he’s had a chance to watch J.O. for a year and he’s got some of the same kind of skill set that J.O. has. He’s got a long way to go to become a great offensive tackle in this league, but we’re really pleased with his progress."

That advancement has included honing his footwork and converting baby fat into muscle.

The consensus around the Ravens’ is that Gaither has come a long way, but he’s far from a finished product.

"He’s without question the most improved guy on offense, in my opinion," Cameron said. "He has a long way to go. It’s one of those cases where the grind at training camp is where you make the left tackles.

“You really don’t find out about your left tackles until they give up a sack or two. Once they do that, you’ve got to find out how they bounce back. He’s got to move on, because we’re not going to take him out, and we’re not going to move him onto the right side."

While Gaither excelled in blocking drills in practice last year when he stonewalled linebacker Terrell Suggs, he wasn’t nearly as effective in games.

The book on Gaither offers a quick sketch of vast, untapped ability.

Picked in the fifth round of the NFL supplemental draft after being declared academically ineligible in College Park, Gaither is striving to improve his work habits and his reputation.

"He has a ton of potential and just has to keeping getting better and keep working on his maturity," left guard Ben Grubbs said. "The sky is the limit for him and the offensive line as a whole. There’s a lot of guys that could be special, but that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t utilize it. We stay on him and help him out anyway we can."

Left tackle is regarded as one of the most difficult positions to master. So many things can go wrong.

One of the most critical elements is confidence, which Gaither doesn’t lack, along with the realization that he has a lot of room for growth.

"This is my season," Gaither said. "I have been looking forward to it since the beginning of last year. I’m going to be me. I’m just going to go out there and go at it every day.

"I don’t have a grasp on anything, I believe. I’m working really hard and learning the plays and nailing them down, but there’s always the next step. I’m never satisfied."
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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