Ravens-Bills key matchup

October 31, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht

Ravens OT Jonathan Ogden vs. Bills DE Bruce Smith

Jonathan Ogden wants to be known as a Hall of Fame offensive tackle who played his position better than anyone. Today, Ogden gets to measure his skills against an icon whose spot in Canton is already being reserved.

Buffalo right defensive end Bruce Smith has aged, with 15 years in the NFL trenches on his resume. But age hasn't stopped Smith from striking fear into offenses. He may have slowed a bit, but Smith still brings the same unique blend of strength, quickness and moves to his position. He still can create a nightmare for any offensive tackle.

At 6 feet 4, 273 pounds, Smith seems like a bigger, stronger version of Kansas City linebacker Derrick Thomas in the eyes of Ogden, who counts Smith among the elite group of pass rushers he has ever seen or faced.

"Reggie White is up there, but Bruce is definitely in the top three, and Bruce has the most ways to hurt you," Ogden said. "He isn't going to bring it as much with the physical rush. He's a speed rusher, a counter-move type of guy. I've got some experience facing Bruce, which is a plus. But I've still got to

be ready to play."

Ogden, who has faced Smith twice in preseason play, is recovering from a sprained neck he suffered four weeks ago in Atlanta. Ogden looked tentative for much of his last game against Kansas City. Now that he has gone through an entire game without recurring pain, his confidence level is rising again. Just in time to confront one of the game's premier pass rushers.

"There's only a handful of guys you have to account for on every play, and [Smith] is one of them," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "Jonathan tends to raise the level of his play against the good ones."

Smith is second in league history with 166 sacks, trailing only the retired White.

"[Smith] may be the most dominant defensive player in the game still," Billick said. "He's a phenomenal athlete. You have to do certain things with your offensive line, by way of keeping the tight end in or keeping a back in, committing people to him. If you don't, he's going to get to the quarterback. He's going to hurt you."

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