Ravens have their hands full with Jared Allen

OWINGS MILLS -- The storm is coming, and it's not the quiet variety approaching the Baltimore Ravens' backfield.   It's the wild-eyed, mullet-wearing, wise-cracking, raw-boned whirling dervish named Jared Allen.

The Minnesota Vikings' elite defensive end has a relentless motor, intensity matched by his speed, instincts and extensive repertoire of pass-rushing moves.

If Allen doesn't burst past an opposing offensive tackle with his superior quickness to get off the football, he'll spin, bull-rush, rip, swim and power his way past the line of scrimmage to hit the quarterback.

"He's certainly unique in his way," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "There are guys that are sort of like him, but there's nobody with a higher motor. Jared Allen just brings it every single play.

"He's explosive, he's physical, he's got spin moves, he's got hump moves, he's got every kind of move that you could think of. Really what makes him so good is his relentlessness as a pass rusher and a run defender. We respect him a lot."

Since being acquired in a trade from the Kansas City Chiefs for a first-round draft pick and two third-round draft picks, Allen has emerged as the scourge of the league when it comes to harassing quarterbacks.

Now, Allen is the Ravens' big problem to deal with as they'll do everything they can to try to contain him during Sunday's matchup at the Metrodome.

Regardless of whether it's rookie blocker Michael Oher squaring off with Allen as the Ravens' starting left offensive tackle or Jared Gaither if his neck somehow cooperates in time for kickoff, the Ravens definitely have their hands full.

"He's a highlight reel," Oher said. "He has every move. You have to study everything he does."

Allen absolutely dismantled the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago with 4 ½ sacks.

He sacked and stripped Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in tandem with Brian Robison, registering three solo sacks and a coverage sack on his own despite chip-blocking assistance and Green Bay designing rollouts to avoid his presence.

"He's a great player, the best I've ever seen personally," Oher said. "You have to get after him and just stay with your fundamental technique. You have to play very fast.

"He's a tough guy, he's a fast guy. He's very physical. I've seen everything from him. He's very athletic and he has a motor."

The Vikings value Allen so highly that they signed him to a six-year, $72.3 million contract.

Allen rewarded that faith by recording 14 ½ sacks last season.

This year, the 27-year-old already has 6 ½ sacks and three forced fumbles with one safety.

"He's obviously had a really good season," said Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, the chief target of Allen's pursuit Sunday. "He's played well for a while now, so we're going to go into the game and we're going to have specific plans for their defense.

"They have a bunch of guys on their front seven that can get after it, and we're going to be accounting for every one of them."

Allen has devoted himself to studying video on his laptop computer, and has incorporated mixed martial arts training into his workout regimen to increase his cardiovascular conditioning.

The 6-foot-6, 270-pounder has also repeatedly said that he no longer drinks alcohol after being arrested three times for driving under the influence and being suspended once by the NFL.

Allen recorded one sack against the Detroit Lions and the San Francisco 49ers.

And he managed to dominate the Packers' suspect offensive line despite playing with a bothersome sinus infection.

"I thought I played phenomenal," Allen told reporters.

Although Allen is so impressive physically, it's his energy that separates him from the pack of pass rushers around the league.

"He's not stronger than anybody, he's not faster than anybody," Vikings defensive line coach Karl Dunbar told Minnesota reporters. "He just loves the game. I think for the first part of his career as a football player he lived that way off the field. Now, I think he understands that, 'Hey, it's great to do it on the field, but the stuff off the field catches up with you.'"

If Oher draws this tough assignment, he has the experience and confidence built from shutting out Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Antwan Odom, the NFL sacks leader with eight.

Gaither didn't practice Wednesday, but is intent on playing against the Vikings after being held out against the Bengals.

He has immense respect for Allen, but he doesn't fear him.

"He's just another defensive end on another team that stands in the Baltimore Ravens' way," Gaither said. "Like any other defensive end, he has moves he has perfected. I look forward to the challenge."

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