Jonathan Ogden looks like No. 1 despite move to guard


Ravens rookie adjusts to new focus, schemes

July 25, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | The Baltimore Sun

The Ravens' training camp is barely a week old, and the consensus opinion on rookie guard Jonathan Ogden, the first No. 1 draft pick in team history, has become clear.

This kid can play.

The Ravens selected Ogden, 21, because they could not resist his combination of size, athletic ability and intelligence. Then they moved the nation's premier collegiate offensive left tackle to left guard. So far, Ogden, 6 feet 8, 320 pounds, has done nothing to make them reconsider that decision.

As a run blocker and especially a pass protector, Ogden has won more than his share of battles against opposing defensive right tackles, including the Ravens' projected starter, Dan Footman. As for his new position, Ogden is rapidly absorbing the new responsibilities.

"Tackles tend to be out on islands and in their own games, more than guards are. Guards are usually involved in some kind of teamwork scheme," offensive line coach Kirk Ferentz said. "He's making the transition very smoothly. Some guys, like Jon, have the ability to look effortless. I assure you, he's putting a lot of effort into it."

Veteran right guard Wally Williams knows something about Ogden's situation. During his four-year career, Williams has played both guard spots, as well as some center. Williams likes the way Ogden is handling his new assignments.

"He's already got the basic skills down," said Williams. "His biggest adjustment is getting used to the outside help he'll get from [left tackle] Tony Jones. Some of the reads we have to make are pretty much on sight. We don't have time to talk about it when we get up to the line of scrimmage. He's picking up on those things real well."

Part of Ogden's adjustment involves thinking more like a run blocker than a pass protector. At UCLA as the nation's premier pass blocker, Ogden's mission was primarily sealing off the outside pass rush on his quarterback's blind side.

"Guard is a more aggressive position," said Ogden, stretching out after yesterday's morning workout at Western Maryland College. "Your goal is to move somebody out of there with run blocking. When you're pass blocking, you've got to stop them on the line, instead of giving up ground first on the outside.

"I'm just trying to get the offense down first, learn how to work with Tony and [center] Steve [Everitt], and go from there. Right now, I'm in a groove."

Ogden also is learning about the pace of training camp, a six-week affair that is three times longer than any other camp he has experienced. He said the two-practices-a-day grind already has set in -- he sometimes forgets what day it is. His shoulders are tender, his legs are tired. He is entering a "dead body" phase.

"Practices here are different than in college. We'd go harder a lot more in college," Ogden said. "Here, I watch the veterans. The season here is 20 games long, counting preseason and not counting the playoffs. You've got to be smart out there. You can't be full-go on every play, or else you're not going to make it through the season."

Ogden could not make it through the first week without being subjected to a rookie tradition. The veterans twice have forced him to sing in front of the team. Ogden's attempt at rap was, shall we say, below average.

"I get along with all of the offensive linemen, no problems," he said. "But my singing voice is not that good. I'm trying to get out of it."

Williams hinted that the veterans might cut Ogden a break in that area after he plays a few games. After that, Williams said, the veterans would begin chipping away at his $6.8 million signing bonus -- at the dinner table, for starters.

For now, Ogden said he is focused on the Ravens' first exhibition game against the Philadelphia Eagles, a week from Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

"Technically, he's going to be fine. Obviously, he has the athletic ability," Everitt said. "We'll know more in two weeks. That first game brings out a lot in you. It shows your strengths and weaknesses, and a lot of that is about toughness.

"The biggest difference between here and college is you don't dominate people like you used to. Everyone in this league was the big man where they played, and now you're playing against a bunch of big guys. You've got to be mean and nasty. You've got no friends once the whistle blows."

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