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Super Bowl positional breakdown

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Posted: Thursday January 18, 2001 3:10 PM


To send a question or comment to Dr. Z, click here.

Following are the player vs. player matchups for Super Bowl XXXV. People have asked me why I don't line them up in some kind of offense vs. defense arrangement, since that's the way they'll face each other on the field. The problem is that it would work in some positions, but others would be uncovered. What do you do with the QB, for instance? Match him against the free safety? And who does the center go against, the middle linebacker? What if they're in an odd front and the center is covered? No, it would create more problems than it's worth. Thank you, but we'll stick with our old, traditional way.

Matchups: Offense | Defense | Special Teams | My Pick

Ravens   Giants
Qadry Ismail (87)
The top receiver among the wideouts with a modest 49 receptions. Will catch the occasional medium-range pass but had three drops in the last two games.
Amani Toomer (81)
Always has been on the verge of greatness, never quite there. A big (6-foot-3, 208 pounds), strong receiver who can impose his will. Effective against the Vikings DBs.
Jonathan Ogden (75)
The Ravens don't try to kid anybody. Their power running game is built around the thrusts of this mountainous 6-8 All-Pro, who can collapse a side by himself. Pass blocking is a lesser skill, possibly a holdover from a lingering ankle injury.
Lomas Brown (76)
A smooth, quick-footed pass blocker and a seven-time Pro Bowler early in his 16-year career, but he looked about through when the Browns cut him in February. Has had a rebirth under the Giants' superb OL coach, Jim McNally, and has even showed drive-blocking skills.
Edwin Mulitalo (64)
Another formidable drive-blocker at 340 pounds. He and Ogden give the Ravens the best one-two punch in the league, but pass-rush schemes have occasionally confused him. Left the Oakland game with a concussion and the Raiders destroyed his backup, Kipp Vickers (No. 77).
Glenn Parker (62)
Another cagey veteran (11 years) with service stripes from the Bills and Chiefs. Athletic, intelligent and excellent in space. Always seems to find the right target when he pulls out. Veteran of all four Buffalo Super Bowls.
Jeff Mitchell (60)
Young, underrated four-year pro who fits in nicely with the rushing scheme. Had problems with the Oakland DTs.
Dusty Zeigler (52)
"A big, strong, tough kid," McNally says. Came from the Bills, where he played right guard last year.
Mike Flynn (62)
A three-year backup and taxi-squadder until he finally won a starting job this season. Raw and tenacious, but he struggled against the Raiders' Grady Jackson.
Ron Stone (65)
Originally a Cowboy. Only Giants holdover at the same OL position. At least 10 pounds heavier than his program weight of 320. Pro Bowl choice. Solid in every phase of the game.
Harry Swayne (70)
Has had a strange, 14-year career. Long-armed, pass-blocking specialist at San Diego, decent run-blocker at Denver, now a combination of both. Will need help with Michael Strahan.
Luke Petitgout (77)
Tried at left tackle and at guard as a rookie last year. Struggled, but he has found a home at RT. A battler who'll have his hands full with Rob Burnett, or Peter Boulware on the nickel rush.
Shannon Sharpe (82)
Underused early in the season, but has broken the last two games open with 56- and 96-yard catches. A willing blocker ... better than people give him credit for. Second-most yards of any NFL tight end.
Howard Cross (87); Pete Mitchell (83); Dan Campbell (89)
It's done by committee. Cross is the blocker, Mitchell the pass catcher who'll occasionally line up wide, Campbell the wham-blocker in motion when the Giants go two-tight.
Trent Dilfer (8)
First you heard: There's no way Dilfer's gonna beat the Titans. Then: There's no way he'll beat the Raiders. Now people are beginning to wonder. He doesn't beat anybody, but the Ravens have won 10 straight with him at quarterback.
Kerry Collins (5)
His rags-to-riches story has been well documented. Had a career game against the Vikings, operating with the luxury of terrific protection. How he holds up against the Ravens' rush could decide the game.
Jamal Lewis (31)
Good combination here. Lewis is a tireless, 231-pound banger -- with speed -- who meshes well with the offensive line schemes. He's no pass-catching threat, though. For that, the Ravens turn to Priest Holmes (No. 33), once their top ball carrier but now a route-runner, through necessity.
Tiki Barber (21)
Zippy runner who's also effective as a receiver (70 catches). His surge this year kept the team's No. 1 draft pick, 253-pound Ron Dayne (No. 27), on the bench, and it's a good thing because the big rookie has shown little. The over-and-under on yards Dayne will gain against the Ravens is five.
Sam Gash (32)
Took over when the starter, Obafemi Ayanbadejo, was lost with a toe injury. Headline writers celebrated. Gash is effective at times but not the killer he once was. He sits when the Ravens go two-TEs with Ben Coates (No. 81) -- who's about at the end of the line -- or three wides.
Greg Comella (34)
His blocking was criticized early in the year and I don't know why because every time I see him he's taking someone on. Good hands. The Giants lined him up wide on occasion against the Vikes, and he ended up with four catches and a TD.
Patrick Johnson (83)
Replaced the injured starter, rookie Travis Taylor (broken clavicle) and looks like a guy on the lam from the law. Try to find him. One pass thrown his way in the postseason, zero catches. Brandon Stokley (No. 80) is the third wideout -- actually, he started for Johnson last week -- and little Jermaine Lewis (No. 84) comes in at No. 4, although the Ravens would prefer to keep him fresh for punt returns.
Ike Hilliard (88)
A good counterpart to Toomer. Smart route runner. Positively ate up the Vikings' corners with 10 catches for 155 yards and two scores. Rounding out the receivers package is rookie Ron Dixon (No. 86), the speed guy who made a terrific catch for 43 yards against Minnesota, and 230-pound Joe Jurevicius (No. 84), who has become effective in the short and intermediate routes.

Ravens   Giants
Rob Burnett (90)
Unsung hero of the defense. Can rush the passer, but is also sturdy against the run, allowing the monster tackles to slant to their right and take the heat off Michael McCrary, allowing him to do what he does best, rush upfield.
Michael Strahan (92)
Sacks were down during the regular season, although he was sturdy against the run. Then he erupted with a fury in the playoffs, first burying the Eagles' 330-pound Jon Runyan, then the Vikings' 346-pound Korey Stringer, all with power rushes.
Sam Adams (95)
Raised his game to an unbelievable level against the Raiders. Was carrying 325-pound Mo Collins, one of my all-pro finalists at guard, into the backfield and exerting constant gut pressure, as well as shutting down the run.
Christian Peter (99)
Hard-working two-gapper who holds firm at the point. Cornelius Griffin (No. 97), an athletic and immensely talented rookie, comes in on packages, and that's about it. The Giants seldom rotate more than five linemen.
Tony Siragusa (98)
Big Tony's about Sumo size now, and an 11-year career that should be about wrapped up has blossomed. Always has been a run-stopper who gets lifted on third down, but he's been showing great thrust as well on early-down pass situations.
Keith Hamilton (75)
Should have made the Pro Bowl but didn't. Third best in the NFC behind Glover and Sapp. Emotional, fiery player who makes plays all over the field when he's on a roll but will also picks up the occasional 15-yard penalty.
Michael McCrary (99)
Undersized rush specialist who tends to wear down during a season. Maybe it's the esprit de corps of this great defense, but his motor has been nonstop in the playoffs.
Cedric Jones (94)
Hustler with good speed. More of an upfield rusher, but will pick up the run on the go. At 270, gives away 70 pounds to Ogden.
Peter Boulware (58)
Fairly free now from a career of nagging shoulder injuries, and more active. Will line up at DLE in the nickel rush. Hasn't been great in coverage, though, and he'd be the LB the Giants would work on.
Ryan Phillips (91)
Typical strong-side plugger who's the first off the field in all long-yardage packages. Hard worker. Will make his share of plays.
Ray Lewis (52)
Wasn't playing at All-Pro level early in the season, but his game has shown a steady upward progression, and now he's the best. Great ballhawk versus the run or the pass.
Mike Barrow (58)
Has made a big difference in the Giants' scheme. Much more speed at the position now. Can cover, can fill, will occasionally line up on the edge as a pass-rusher.
Jamie Sharper (55)
Great hustle and pursuit. Can rush from the edge as a mixer. Doesn't get many man-coverage responsibilities in the Ravens' predominantly zone scheme, but he came up with a big goal line interception against Oakland.
Jesse Armstead (98)
Leader of the defense. Quick to the ball, good at covering receivers out of the backfield. Has picked up his game during the playoffs, as have all the Giants defenders.
Duane Starks (22)
Bounced back from a horrendous outing against Jacksonville early in the year to put together a fine season. Intercepted two against the Raiders. Somewhat protected in the zone, but he reads and covers well. A 170-pound shrimp who isn't afraid to come up against the run.
Jason Sehorn (31)
Left and right doesn't mean much here because the Giants usually go man vs. man. Pick a receiver and stay with him. Just another guy during the regular season, but now Sehorn's close to where he was two years ago, when he was terrific. Did a textbook job on Randy Moss. I'd guess he'll be on Ismail because of his speed.
Kim Herring (20)
Sure tackler, terrific in goal line situations, but he has missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain. The Ravens are lucky, though, because if he can't go, Corey Harris (No. 45) is an able replacement.
Sam Garnes (20)
Tough hitter who was once used close to the line but not now, as the Giants rely heavily on their front four. Has been finding the ball and reading routes well.
Rod Woodson (26)
An All-Pro as the front man, playing the left corner in the Steelers' double zone, now he has duplicated the honor as the rear guard in the same setup in Baltimore. Knows all the angles.
Shaun Williams (36)
My all-pro at the position. He always was a tremendous hitter, but now he has added range to his game. Effective as a blitzer and will occasionally cover the slot receiver in the nickel.
Chris McAlister (21)
Took charge of Tim Brown in the championship game and held him to one catch, while he had him in man-coverage. The Titans tested him three times the week before. Three incompletes. At the top of his game.
Dave Thomas (41)
My guess is that Thomas will get either Stokley or Johnson, whoever starts. Might be the league's biggest corner at 6-3, 218. His game improved immensely with more lenient interference calls in the playoffs.
Corey Harris (45)
He's the first guy in if Herring starts. The Ravens lost nothing at SS in Harris' last two outings. James Trapp (No. 38) comes in as a nickel linebacker and Robert Bailey (No. 35) is the third CB. The biggest asset is the ability to bring in three new linemen -- Lional Dalton (No. 91), Larry Webster (No. 79) and Keith Washington (No. 93), all effective.
Emmanuel McDaniel (26)
Most of the time he has the most difficult coverage -- vs. the slot receiver -- and he has done an excellent job. Seldom-used Omar Stoutmire (No. 23) was the extra back against the Vikings, but it's doubtful that the Giants would go six-DBs against this set of Ravens receivers.
CONSENSUS: Ravens, 7-4-1.

Ravens   Giants
Matt Stover (3)
Pro Bowler who made 35 of 39 field goals, and a long of 51 yards.
Brad Daluiso (3)
Regular-season field goals, 17-of-23 with a long of 46 yards.
Kyle Richardson (5)
Gross of 40.2, net of 33.9, pretty much a wash versus Maynard there, but he's a master at getting the ball to back up, with a league high of 35 inside the 20.
Brad Maynard (9)
Gross of 40.6 yards, net of 33.7, with 26 inside the 20 and eight touchbacks, but he was working in one of the worst stadiums for kickers and punters, as was Daluiso.
Jermaine Lewis (84)
Broke up the game against the Jets with two long punt returns for TDs. His 16.1 average average was tops in the NFL. Harris is a smart, rather than blazingly fast, kick returner with a 23.3 average -- not great, but better than Dixon's 21.2.
Tiki Barber (21)
Punt returner Barber was pretty far down on the league stats with an average of 8.5 and a long of 31, but he was carrying a full load as a running back. Kick return man Dixon broke a 97-yarder against the Eagles. The rest of the time he has been invisible.
Both numbers (9.3 yards for enemy punt returns, 21.3 for kickoff returns) are better than those of the Giants. In ex-Cowboy Billy Davis (86) they have a real downfield terror. COVERAGE
The Giants finished in the bottom half of the league in both punt and kickoff return coverage, allowing averages of 12.6 and 22.5 yards, respectively.
Consensus: Ravens, 4-0

My Pick
Ravens, 16-13 , which -- surprise -- is the same score I picked for the magazine. What are the numbers that jump out at me from these matchups? Great special-teams superiority for Baltimore, better defensive depth.

To send a question or comment to Dr. Z, click here.

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