Tackles in line of fire against Colts' defensive ends

RAVENS NOTEBOOK

Ravens' task is daunting against Freeney, Mathis

Pro Football

December 16, 2004|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis give the Indianapolis Colts' much-maligned defense something to boast about. The undersized, hard-charging defensive ends are also giving the Ravens' offensive tackles something to think about.

Freeney and Mathis rank first and second in the AFC with 13 and 10 1/2 sacks, respectively. Freeney's total leads the NFL.

Pure speed is how the duo earns most of its numbers. Freeney, in particular, uses the crowd at the RCA Dome to get an even faster start against tackles, often finding himself in the backfield before a lineman is in his stance.

"It will be tough on that turf on the road with all that noise, but we have to make plays," said Jonathan Ogden, who shut out Freeney when the two met two years ago. "I have to block him, there is no way around it. He might be the fastest person off the ball in the league right now.

"I'm just going to have to be on top of my game, that's all."

Ogden's strategy is simple - maul the smaller Freeney. If Ogden, 6 feet 9, 345 pounds, can get his hands on Freeney, 6-1, 268, then advantage Ogden.

"You have to be limited in your physicality," said Ogden, who has been beaten twice for sacks this season. "They do a lot of movement. But once I get my hands on him, I've got to be physical with him."

Right tackles Orlando Brown and Ethan Brooks will surely employ the same technique. Brown, at 360 pounds, outweighs Mathis by 125.

Mathis, though, is a situational rusher and substitutes for Raheem Brock in passing situations. The rotation keeps Mathis, a second-year player out of Alabama A&M, from wearing down late in the game.

Brown and Brooks will have their own rotation as well.

"Sometimes, with a speed guy that is just going to run up the field all day, you can run him by the quarterback," Brooks said. "But when you have a speed guy who is quick and shifty, that poses a whole other set of problem. Personally, I prefer a bigger guy where we can wrestle."

Indianapolis is second in the league with 41 sacks, one behind the Philadelphia Eagles. Unlike the Eagles, the Colts get pressure by simply beating the opponent. Thirty-seven of those sacks have come from defensive linemen, and Colts coach Tony Dungy estimates his team blitzes less than five plays a game.

The best way to counteract the Colts' rush, according to Brooks, is simple.

"The quarterback has got to get rid of the ball," he said.

Boller wins honor

Something that would have seemed laughable a couple of months ago came to fruition yesterday.

Quarterback Kyle Boller was named the AFC's Player of the Week.

"It's a great honor to get the award," said Boller, who threw four touchdowns Sunday against the New York Giants. "I have to give my teammates a lot of credit for that. Those guys really stepped up. The offensive line did a great job of protecting, and my playmakers went up and made plays for me.

"It just shows hard work pays off."

Boller has thrown eight touchdowns and two interceptions over his past five games.

Injury update

Running back Jamal Lewis (ankle) and linebacker Bart Scott (knee) were the only Ravens to miss part of yesterday's practice.

Lewis is expected to play Sunday, while Scott will have to improve significantly by the end of the week.

"That looks pretty good," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of his injury situation. "That's the best we've had in a long time. We're ready to go to battle."

Colts receiver Brandon Stokley (groin) and safety Gerome Sapp (ribs), both former Ravens, are questionable for the game.

Ravens sign Devoe

The Ravens signed receiver Todd Devoe to the practice squad.

Devoe takes the place of quarterback Josh Harris, who the Cleveland Browns signed to their active roster. Harris was the Ravens' sixth-round pick out of Bowling Green. Devoe spent training camp with the Ravens.

Harris will take the roster spot of Browns quarterback Jeff Garcia, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

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