Ogden-Kearse battle will be show in itself


October 05, 2001|By Brent Jones | The Baltimore Sun

Having to watch Tennessee Titans end Jevon Kearse beat All-Pro Jacksonville Jaguars tackle Tony Boselli must be at least disconcerting to some linemen, downright frightening to others.

Ravens tackle Jonathan Ogden, who will face Kearse this week, had his own view after watching tape of the matchup between Kearse and Boselli on film.

"He played well, but I don't look at how he does against other people," Ogden said. "I just go out there and do my game. I know he's going to come ready to play, and I'm going to come ready to play. It's going to be a tough battle, like it always is."

Kearse finished with two sacks in the Titans' 13-6 loss in Jacksonville two weeks ago, though just one was credited against Boselli. That's still one more than nearly every other lineman has that faces Boselli, often mentioned in the same breath as Ogden as the best offensive tackle in the NFL.

Kearse will be involved in his second straight marquee matchup Sunday when Tennessee (0-2) takes on the Ravens (2-1) at PSINet Stadium. In previous years, when the Titans faced the Ravens, Kearse lined up mostly on the opposite side, squaring off against Harry Swayne, who's no longer with the team.

Kearse switched to the right side this season to make way for end Kevin Carter, whom the team obtained in an offseason trade.

So far, the move has been a success."[Kearse] had a very good rush against Tony Boselli [who had allowed only 14.5 sacks in six years heading into this season]," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "It was the first time any one of our players had beaten Boselli for a sack since Boselli's been in the league. So he's doing some good things over there.

"Jevon has played the right side at times the past couple of years, but this is the first time he's lined up there full-time. He's adjusting well. He played the left side his first two years in a right-handed stance. Therefore, he's going to be on the edge quicker from the right side now.

"He still needs work on the moves, on the counters, on the speed, power and various elements of his pass rush. But I believe he's going to be very productive for us."

Nobody may be happier about Kearse's switch than Ravens quarterback Elvis Grbac. Last season, Kearse recorded four sacks in the teams' two regular-season matchups, working mostly against Swayne.

Things likely will not come as easy going primarily against Ogden.

"Jevon obviously is probably the best defensive [end] in the league - just athletically and the things that he can do on the football field," Grbac said. "To have a guy like Jonathan who can step up and face the challenge, it's a war that everybody is going to want to watch as the game goes on.

"It will be interesting if they move Jevon around a little bit and let him get to the passer. But we've got an offensive line that's finally jelling together and doing some good things. So I think we'll do fine."

For two players with dissimilar body types, Ogden and Kearse possess many of the same attributes. Both have been described by some teammates and coaches as pound-for-pound the best athletes on their respective teams.

Kearse, at 6 feet 4, 265 pounds, has the speed of a receiver -- 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash -- which helps him overcome tackles that outweigh him by as much as 75 pounds, as the 6-foot-8 Ogden does.

"He's a good player," Ogden said. "He's got a lot of speed, and that's his No. 1 asset. It's hard to neutralize him. He's faster than most linebackers."

There will be times when Ogden will get a reprieve from working against Kearse. The Titans have a tendency to move Kearse back to his old position on certain down and distance situations, though that will likely mean Ogden will have to face Carter, who recorded 10.5 sacks for the St. Louis Rams last season.

Carter, though, is without a sack in the Titans' first two games, and his performances are known to go up and down. Kearse's motor rarely slows.

"When you have two great defensive ends like that, you're going to have to help out one side or the other or both," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "If you do, that diminishes who you can put down the field. They're both very gifted, and we're going to have to account for them.

"We're prepared for [Kearse] to go either side. They've done that, putting Kearse on the right side, putting Carter on the left side. But specifically, with Jonathan and Kearse, you're talking about two premier players. That's worth the price of admission itself."

Fisher acknowledged that in order to get the most out of his player, he's apt to line up Kearse anywhere.

"There's a chance that we'll move him around, as always is the case," he said. "But I think it will be a great matchup. Jonathan's got great feet, very disciplined hands and has handled most speed rushers without any difficulty. So this should be a matchup that's fun to watch."

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