By Mike Preston
The Baltimore Sun
January 11, 2007
On one side is Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, one of the league's premier pass rushers. He makes offensive tackles lose sleep at night because he is their worst nightmare on the field.
On the other side is Ravens left offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden. He has kept a lot of defensive ends awake at night, too. He'll be in the Hall of Fame some day because he has earned 10 Pro Bowl appearances and become the NFL prototype at his position.
In a game that has several twisting plots and great individual matchups, there may be none better than Freeney vs. Ogden on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium. It's worth the price of admission alone.
"It's two supreme players, elite players that have battled before," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "There's only really a handful of guys in this league - and he's one of them - that you've got to account for every play."
Ogden knows Freeney well. In 11 years in the league, there have been only two players who have given Ogden trouble - the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Simeon Rice and Freeney. The Pittsburgh Steelers' Joey Porter didn't bother Ogden this season, and neither did the San Diego Chargers' Shawne Merriman.
But Freeney had two sacks against Ogden in the Colts' 20-10 win over the Ravens in 2004. Freeney didn't have a sack in the 2005 season opener for both teams (a 24-7 Colts win), but had several hurries and made Ogden commit two false starts.
Ogden probably won't admit it, but if there was one face he had lodged in the back of his head when he hired a personal trainer for the first time during last offseason, it was Freeney's.
The guy has been a nuisance, with 56 1/2 sacks during his five-year career, including 5 1/2 this season.
"He is fast, obviously," Ogden said. "But, it's more his initial get-off; he's so quick on the get-off and that's the problem on the road because you can't hear the snap count and he is moving on the ball all the time. And he covers 2 yards so fast. And it's the spin move, the little spin, that you've got to be aware off."
There's not just one spin, but sometimes two in one pass-rush attempt. Freeney is like the Tasmanian Devil, but there is much more in his arsenal. Freeney is small by defensive end standards, but extremely strong and athletic. He can bench press 500 pounds. He covers 40 yards in 4.4 seconds.
He can change directions quickly and throw aside offensive linemen because he has great strength in his hands and arms. There are other times when he simply bull rushes a tackle because he is short enough to get under his pads, gain leverage and then overpower him.
Freeney, though, isn't just a pass rusher. He can play the rush, too, especially tracking down runners on the far side of the field.
"There is a big misperception," Freeney said. "They say all I do is get sacks. They forget about the tackles for losses. They forget about everything because it's a more highlighted type of play. When I do a spin move - not too many guys go out and do a spin move - so therefore, when I do it, it brings more attention. Therefore, they say that's all he does. That's not true. If you ask any guy I play against, I probably do as much as anybody in the National Football League."
Ogden has problems with Freeney because he can't get his hands on him. Ogden usually can halt an opponent or knock him off-balance with his initial hit, but you can't punch what you can't see.
"It's going to be a real tough matchup," Freeney said. "Jonathan is an All-Pro, Hall of Fame offensive tackle and one of the best in the game. He's won some battles. I've won some battles in the past. It's going to take a complete effort for every single play for four quarters."
Ogden gains an advantage because the game is at home. He doesn't have to deal with the crowd noise and not being able to hear the snap count. For a player so big, he has quick feet and good speed, so much in fact that he actually plays point guard when he plays pick-up basketball. He rarely gets caught off-balance, and those long, powerful arms allow him to keep defensive linemen away from his body. He mauls people.
At 6 feet 9 and 345 pounds, he has a 77-pound weight advantage on Freeney. But that may be nullified a little Saturday because Ogden will be playing with a hyperextended big left toe. He missed the last two regular-season games and says he won't be at full capacity.
The Ravens most likely will give Ogden some help with Freeney. Look for them to chip block Freeney with a running back, or put a tight end to the left side to help Ogden.
The real key is for the Ravens to get a lead.
If the Ravens fall behind and have to pass, the Colts will turn Freeney loose and it could be a long day for Ogden and quarterback Steve McNair. If the Ravens gain a lead and can run the ball, Ogden could use his weight advantage and push Freeney around, even with a bad toe.
"I think if J.O. is playing, he's playing," Ravens tight end Todd Heap said of Ogden. "We're definitely going to have to account for their defensive ends because they are two great players. But J.O. is not too bad himself. Hurt or not hurt, there are not too many guys that can play like he can."
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