Among linemen, Ravens' Ogden in league of his own

The Baltimore Sun

The impact of Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden starts before the snap.

When the Ravens play at Miami on Sunday, Ogden's intimidation can be measured by counting how many times the Dolphins' top pass rusher avoids him. Jason Taylor has 6 1/2 sacks this season by primarily coming off the right edge, but the Ravens don't expect him to line up against Ogden very often.

Few players have conquered Mount Ogden, and fewer want to try.

"I can imagine Taylor flopping over to the other side a whole bunch because he knows he's not going to get anything done against Jonathan," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "To have that left side nailed down always from the get-go is a huge luxury."

Even at 6 feet 8, 340 pounds, the five-time Pro Bowl performer rarely stands out on the field because he is so smooth and smothering.

Offensive line coach Jim Colletto can count the number of sacks allowed by Ogden in the past 3 1/2 years on two hands. Billick can't think of a time that he's had to have a tight end help Ogden to double-team an opponent or have a running back shade to the left side.

In pass protection, Ogden has the massive wingspan and fluid artistry that allows him to steer rushers off his body. In run blocking, he has the leverage and power to drive a lineman 10 yards off the line of scrimmage.

"When you look at what it takes to play his position -- athletic ability, size, smarts, and strength -- he has no weakness," said James Harris, the Ravens' pro personnel director. "He's one of the true dominant players in the league. If you would rate all the players in the NFL and base it on how they play every week, Ogden would be in the top 10 or higher. Certainly, there's not a better offensive lineman than him."

In his seventh season, Ogden has truly separated himself as the elite NFL lineman.

There are no more comparisons with the Houston Texans' Tony Boselli and the St. Louis Rams' Orlando Pace, both of whom have been hampered by injuries. The only linemen even remotely close to Ogden these days are the Seattle Seahawks' Walter Jones and the New Orleans Saints' Kyle Turley.

But Ogden, who always walks around the locker room with a science fiction book in hand, doesn't like to talk about his own future, which could include a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"You can't go up a flight of stairs without taking that first step," said Ogden, who is signed though 2006. "That's kind of how I look at my career. But I don't view myself any different than anybody else. I'm just like all the other four guys up front working their tails off."

Ogden feels at home playing offensive tackle -- which is commonly referred as playing on an island -- because of the one-on-one battles.

A loner at heart, Ogden wants the responsibility of anchoring the left side and to be left alone. During the season, he's in his own world, reading between five to seven books while riding the exercise bike or getting treatment in the training room.

Outside the locker room, Ogden lacks the flash of an NFL superstar. The car parked at his Las Vegas home is a 1996 Range Rover. Ogden says he likes the car because it has only 50,000 miles on it, while others say he's just frugal.

"I'm not a car guy," Ogden said. "First of all, I can't fit in all the cars."

Ogden has been the perfect fit for the Ravens since they used the franchise's first pick to draft him in 1996. He also serves as a benchmark for teammates.

"We watch film," left guard Edwin Mulitalo said, "and everybody else makes mistakes."

The consensus among the coaching and scouting staff is that Ogden is the easiest player on the team to grade.

His All-Pro consistency is sometimes taken for granted.

"With him, you're surprised if the guy he's blocking even gets a hand on the quarterback," Colletto said.

Ogden, though, is harder on himself. He cringes when he sees that he doesn't have the right placement of his feet on film or when a defender gets off his block and makes a late tackle.

"I'm a perfectionist," Ogden said.

The only knock on Ogden is that he's too laid-back, which is more a misconception than fact.

"There's a tendency for people to say he's not a tough guy because the game is so easy for him," Harris said. "But he is tough. Sometimes, he'll cave a whole side in."

The biggest challenge for Ogden this season is to be challenged.

"He has that ability to erase people from game plans and from the game in general," said Randy Cross, a CBS analyst who was a three-time Pro Bowl lineman for the San Francisco 49ers in the early 1980s. "People always talk about having that go-to receiver in football. As a lineman, he's as close to a real go-to guy as you're going to find."

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