Matchup To Watch

Ravens VS. Chiefs

December 10, 2006

Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata vs. Chiefs guards Brian Waters and Will Shields

George Kokinis, the Ravens' pro personnel director, sizes up tonight's critical matchup against the Chiefs:

The players

The Ravens moved up one spot in this year's draft to select Ngata with the 12th pick overall. In addition to making 35 tackles, Ngata has become a major factor in the Ravens ranking second in run defense.

Ngata left the University of Oregon after his junior season, when he was named the Pacific-10's co-Defensive Player of the Year. He became the first rookie to start full time on the Ravens' defensive line since 2002.

Waters and Shields have been named to the past two Pro Bowls, the first time two guards from one team have done so since 1998. Waters, who plays left guard, might be the strongest player on the team. He joined the Chiefs in 2000 after being cut by the Dallas Cowboys in 1999, when he was an undrafted rookie tight end.

Shields, the right guard, has gone to 11 consecutive Pro Bowls, the longest active streak in the NFL. He has been the cornerstone of an offensive line that has paved the way for four of the five best single-season rushing performances in franchise history.

What to watch

It's starting to come together for Ngata. A tribute to him is that he continues to work every day to get better from a technique standpoint, and it's translating on Sundays. He's able to recognize things more quickly and still play sound technique. He's playing fast and playing like a 350-pound tackle, which means he's playing with power.

Over the years, Waters and Shields have helped the Chiefs' running game be one of the best in the league no matter who is behind them. There's no question that running back Larry Johnson is a talented player, but rushing success starts up front.

These guards get people moving on the defense, and it will be up to Ngata to penetrate that. The Ravens need to play on Kansas City's side of the line of scrimmage. If not, holes might begin to open.

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