Suggs, Jones share quite a history

OWINGS MILLS -- Cincinnati Bengals left offensive tackle Levi Jones has delivered a string of ego-smashing shutouts against the top pass rushers in the NFL. Heading into Sunday's game against the Bengals, Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has no plans to become Jones' latest victim.

Suggs is well aware that his former Arizona State teammate and close friend is emerging as a pass-blocking force. Especially after watching the game film of Jones countering every spin move and speed rush from Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney during a 45-37 loss last week.

Not only did Freeney, who led the NFL with 16 sacks last season, not register a sack, but he didn't even record a tackle despite the Bengals running 65 plays to produce 492 yards of total offense.

"Levi's an athlete and we had to go against each other every day in college and pushed each other," Suggs said. "It's hard for us because we're friends, but it's time for me to go out there and get mine.

"It's always a battle whenever we play. We hang out in the offseason and talk about these games. This is very serious for a lot more reasons than bragging rights."

Jones has allowed only a half-sack this season, according to STATS, Inc.

Assigned with protecting quarterback Carson Palmer's blind side, Jones held Green Bay Packers defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila sackless along with Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter. In the Bengals' 21-9 win in Baltimore on Nov. 6, Suggs didn't get to Palmer.

Jones surrendered a half-sack Oct. 9 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

"Levi has really stepped it up and played great," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said following the Colts' game. "Levi, particularly, did an excellent job against a very, very good player."

Traditionally, Suggs has gotten the better of these matchups in the trenches.

In 2003 on his way to being named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Suggs had two sacks and forced and recovered a fumble against the Bengals. Last season en route to being selected to his first Pro Bowl, Suggs had two and one sacks in two games against Cincinnati.

However, Suggs has only two sacks this season after generating 22 ½ in his first 32 games.

"It's usually kind of lopsided between me and Levi where we trade off who wins," Suggs said. "My first year, he won the first battle, then I won the second game. Last year, I won both battles and then he won the first battle this year. It's definitely my turn."

Jones has started 53 consecutive games while often playing hurt. Constantly overshadowed by perennial Pro Bowl right tackle Willie Anderson, Jones is seeking his first Pro Bowl appearance.

In 2004 in a 23-9 loss to Baltimore, Jones allowed two sacks as he played through the pain of an injured knee.

"They unfortunately don't recognize the job I'm doing when I'm in there," Jones told Cincinnati reporters. "I mean I had one bad game against Baltimore. The one bad game I had, I'm limping into the stadium. I couldn't walk and I shouldn't play."

At 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, Jones has lost 20 pounds since improving his diet to reduce stress on his knees. Now, Bengals tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes has dubbed him "The Enforcer."

For the Ravens, this is a pivotal matchup. Especially since Palmer has such a quick release and is tied for the NFL lead with 20 touchdown passes and leads the league with a 105.6 passer rating.
"Levi is the reason I became the pass rusher I am, but this is all about business," Suggs said. "I'm coming after him because it's my job to get to Carson Palmer and get him on the ground."

NOTES: The Ravens upgraded cornerbacks Samari Rolle (head) and Dale Carter (knee) along with offensive guard Brian Rimpf (hamstring) to probable. Running back Musa Smith (leg) was downgraded to doubtful. Wide receiver Mark Clayton (ankle) was added to the injury report as probable. Quarterback Kyle Boller (back) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (neck) are still probable, but took part fully in Friday's practice. … Jamal Lewis' single touchdown run represents the lone Ravens' rushing touchdown. In the past 60 years, only two teams have gone an entire season without running for more than two touchdowns: the 1972 Philadelphia Eagles and 1995 New York Jets. The Arizona Cardinals have only rushed for two touchdowns this season.
 

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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