It's becoming easier to forget that Jonathan Ogden is a rookie playing a new position. Each time he buries a lineman or repels a pass rusher, which happened often last night, the Ravens' first-round draft choice looks more like a first-rate professional.
An All-American tackle at UCLA, Ogden is making the switch to left guard look easier with every snap. And though the Ravens won't win every game, he looks primed to win most of the battles.
A week earlier, he had dominated Ray Agnew of the New York Giants, blowing him off the line of scrimmage as if he were a skinny defensive back. But this would be a truer test of Ogden's skills, a better read on how well he was making the transition.
These were the Green Bay Packers.
Surprisingly, perhaps, this wasn't much of a problem for Ogden.
The first series pretty much set the tone. He mixed it up with Green Bay's heavyweights and scored a decisive victory, even though his team would eventually lose a close decision, 17-15.
Ogden shoved one Packer aside on a sweep left by Leroy Hoard, and drove another in the opposite direction as fullback Carwell Gardner barreled up the middle for 14 yards and a first down. He stood up Green Bay's Santana Dotson at the line as Vinny tTC Testaverde completed a 16-yard pass to Ray Ethridge, and even took down Reggie White on a running play.
"He's made real good progress," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens vice president of player personnel. "He probably has six quarters under his belt, probably 80 percent of what he'll see during the season. He has some experience to draw on. I see no reason why he won't continue to get better and better each week."
Last night, Ogden usually was matched against Dotson, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers tackle who signed with the Packers as a free agent. In four seasons, Dotson climbed to fourth on the Bucs' list of all-time sack leaders. In one half last night, he didn't lay a hand on Testaverde.
Ogden's work was finished by halftime, but his education will continue. Next week, the Ravens play in Buffalo, which has been known to line up a decent player or two. And they open the regular season on Sept. 1 against the Oakland Raiders and massive defensive tackle Chester McGlockton.
These will be the latest in a season's worth of challenges. But they're beginning to look a little less formidable.
After the first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Ogden spoke of the mistakes he made and of how the NFL was harder than college. But he also allowed himself a few modest compliments, saying he played "OK" and handled himself "pretty well."
That would have been selling himself short last night, especially his run blocking, an area where he struggled some early in camp and against the Eagles.
"It was much better today," he said. "It's just learning how the game is played, that's all."
Right now, he's playing it quite well.
"There's improvement," he said. "I don't know if I can gauge how much, but I did better today against Green Bay than I did against Philly and they [the Packers] were a better team, so I guess I'm improving."
Ogden said he approached his job against Green Bay as he would against any other team, even one without a Santana Dotson or Reggie White.
"I don't know much about that many NFL players anyway," he said, smiling, "so I look at them all as being good. I just try to play my best."