Matchup To Watch

Ravens Vs. Buccaneers

September 10, 2006

Ravens nickel back Corey Ivy vs. Buccaneers slot receiver Ike Hilliard

George Kokinis, the Ravens' pro personnel director, sizes up the top matchup against the Buccaneers:

The players

Ivy, a free-agent pickup from the St. Louis Rams, beat out third-round pick David Pittman for the team's nickel back job. Last season, he had a career-high 81 tackles along with three interceptions and two forced fumbles.

Primarily a special teams player early in his career, Ivy played for three teams in his first three seasons, bouncing from New England to Cleveland to Tampa Bay. One of the reasons he joined the Ravens was because of his connection with defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who coached Ivy at the University of Oklahoma.

Hilliard signed with Tampa Bay last season after eight years with the New York Giants. He has averaged 44.7 catches over his career, totaling 28 touchdowns.

In his first season with the Buccaneers, Hilliard finished fourth on the team with 35 catches. He has caught at least one pass in all but five games during his career.

What to watch

This is a matchup that the Buccaneers are going to look at. Hilliard is still a productive receiver who has found a niche of what he does well in that offense, which is running inside routes and finding the soft spots in the defense. He works the underneath areas and can make yards after the catch.

Ivy has a good challenge in front of him. He played in Tampa but has improved his game since then. I liken him to a pug fighter, who likes to get his hands on guys and be physical. He's a good tackler for his size.

Ivy could have been a player who didn't make it in the NFL, but he deservedly worked himself into a very good nickel back. He has that toughness that you like. He's everything that we thought he would be because of that competitiveness that he has.

Ravens vs. Buccaneers

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