Ravens' Ogden preparing for Freeney rematch

OWINGS MILLS -- Jonathan Ogden sighed, rolled his eyes and reluctantly began discussing his impending rematch with Indianapolis Colts elite pass rusher Dwight Freeney. It's an annoying topic for the Baltimore Ravens' eight-time All-Pro offensive tackle as he heads into Sunday night's season opener against the Colts. Especially when people keep recounting how the Colts All-Pro defensive end dashed past the 6-foot-9, 345-pound Ogden for a pair of sacks in last year's 20-10 road loss to the Colts.

In a noisy RCA Dome, in a season where he was hampered by knee and hamstring injuries and missed four games, Ogden was often just getting out of his stance as Freeney was a few steps into the Ravens' backfield and accelerating toward quarterback Kyle Boller's blindside.

A crisp spin move, respectable bull rush and Freeney's startling 4.38 speed over 40 yards despite being 6-foot-1 and 268 pounds all combined to deal Ogden one of the most frustrating performances in his storied career.

"It's not really that important right now," said Ogden when the Freeney topic is broached Wednesday in the Ravens' locker room. "We'll see what happens this Sunday. That's all I'm really going to say. It's nothing that anyone can really understand, so I'm really not going to talk about it."

It's a testament to how dominant Ogden has been as he enters his 10th season that the outing has gotten so much attention, and it's a reflection of Freeney's growing prominence in NFL circles.

Freeney led the league last season with 16 sacks and has generated 40 sacks in three seasons since being drafted 11th overall out of Syracuse.

"He's very good," said Ogden, who has allowed only 11 sacks in the last four seasons while being flagged for five holding penalties according to Stats, Inc. "He utilizes his speed. He's fast. He's got a really good spin move and converts it into power.

"We've just got to limit it, do a few things and see what happens. I just want to go out and win the game."

A low-key personality, Ogden appears uncomfortable about all of the extra attention. Particularly, since it's about a football game that's long over.

Ravens coach Brian Billick defended Ogden, noting how the noise in the RCA Dome made it difficult for linemen to hear the snap count and get into their blocking assignments as quick as usual.

"Freeney is an outstanding player, probably as good a player rushing off the edge in the league," Billick said. "Let's keep in mind that is a very difficult place and Freeney plays to that strength. Now, we're at home and that should play to our advantage."

One ball-control tactic the Ravens could employ: running at Freeney to try to slow down his pass rush and pound him at the line of scrimmage.

"Their No. 1 thing is rushing the passer, our No. 1 thing is rushing the football," Ogden said. "We need to try to run the football. We have to try to keep them off-balance with the passing game, but we've got to pound them. They're small up front.

"They play hard and tough, but we've got to try to utilize our size. If we start throwing the ball a lot, it starts playing into their advance, which is speed. Ours is size."

The Ogden-Freeney matchup represents a major contrast in styles.

While the towering Ogden, 31, is extremely agile for his size, he remains one of the biggest players in the league.

"I think Ogden is still one of the top three tackles in the game, but not the top tackle in football, which I think is Walter Jones," said ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth, a former NFL offensive lineman. "Ogden is still a great player, but he isn't as dominant as he used to be. Time catches up with everyone."

Freeney, 25, is undersized, but the workout fanatic and reigning John Madden video game champion among NFL players has emerged as one of the most intimidating players in the league with his uncanny combination of strength, speed and quickness.

"It's one you would probably pay the price of admission to see: two guys that are probably the best at their craft in the league pretty much going head to head," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "I just think that for people who appreciate line play, this is maybe one of the classic ones of the whole year."

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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