Jaguars-Ravens key matchup

November 28, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht

T Leon Searcy vs. DE Rob Burnett

Tony Boselli gets the big money and most of the attention at left tackle, but Jacksonville right tackle Leon Searcy fills an equally critical role on the Jaguars' much-respected offensive line.

Ravens left defensive end Rob Burnett is not short on respect for Searcy, against whom Burnett has competed since 1993. The way their individual battle plays out today could help determine if the Ravens can beat the Jaguars for the first time in team history.

The Burnett-Searcy rivalry goes back to the days of the old Cleveland Browns, who drafted Burnett in the fifth round out of Syracuse in 1990. Although the team left for Baltimore in 1996, and Searcy left Pittsburgh that year for Jacksonville, Burnett has faced Searcy at least once a year, and usually twice, since 1993.

Searcy has missed only one start since the beginning of the 1993 season.

"He's always been a good, physical player who plays hard, and he's definitely become a better pass blocker," Burnett said of Searcy, who was drafted in the first round by Pittsburgh in 1992.

Because Jacksonville quarterback Mark Brunell is left-handed, Burnett becomes the pass rusher from his blind side. That makes Searcy hugely important in the Jaguars' passing game. Based on his assignment, Burnett will either be rushing Brunell or looping outside to take away his escape route from the pocket.

Burnett's first obstacle will be the 6-foot-4, 324-pound Searcy, who also enjoys flexing his muscle and using his smarts in the ground game. Burnett said Searcy is among the league's best at using his hands to gain a quick advantage coming off the ball.

"His strength is his punch. If he catches you with it, your play is basically over, because by the time you regroup, the ball is gone and the running back is gone," said Burnett, 6 feet 4, 280 pounds.

"It's all about handwork with him. It's all about beating him to a spot as far as those hands are concerned. It's about making him change his set and do things he doesn't want to do. I enjoy playing against him, because he plays hard and he keeps you on your toes."

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