Matchup To Watch

Ravens VS. Bengals

November 05, 2006

Ravens nose tackle Kelly Gregg vs. Bengals running back Rudi Johnson

George Kokinis, the Ravens' pro personnel director, sizes up a critical matchup against the Bengals:

The players

Gregg, cut by the Bengals and Eagles before joining the Ravens' practice squad in 2000, has been a starter since 2002. He has had at least 89 tackles each season and ranks fourth on the team in tackles (44) this year. He also has forced a fumble and recovered two others.

Johnson broke the Bengals' season rushing record in 2005, gaining 1,458 yards. A fourth-round draft pick in 2001, he didn't become a full-time starter until 2004.

This season, Johnson ranks 13th in the NFL in rushing, averaging 78.9 yards a game. His five-touchdown total is tied for fifth among running backs.

What to watch

This is an important matchup because Johnson is such an exceptional inside runner. He brings a lot of power and has deceptive speed. Besides that, Johnson is a quick decision maker and has good vision. When he sees a crack, he hits it.

That means the Ravens are going to have to rely heavily on Gregg. He gets more tackles than most nose tackles in the league. That's because Gregg is a tremendously aware player. He just knows the game.

Although he's not the biggest nose tackle, he plays with great leverage and strength. One of Gregg's best attributes is getting off blocks. He has the ability to hold the line of scrimmage and then get off a block to make a play. You don't see that often from defensive tackles.

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