One aspect of the Ravens defense that you could always count on during the past decade plus was an ability to stop the run.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
That is until 2012.
Words like “disgusting” were often used to describe the performance of a unit that was among the league’s top ten run defenses the last nine years straight. So as you can imagine strengthening the defensive line was a top priority this off-season.
Let’s take a look:
2013 Depth Chart:
DE – Chris Canty, Arthur Jones, Marcus Spears, DeAngelo Tyson
DT/NT – Haloti Ngata, Brandon Williams, Terrence Cody, Cody Larsen
Haloti Ngata has been considered one of the league’s top defensive lineman with a mix a strength and speed that is hard to equal for a man his size. However, he has struggled to maintain the production to match his reputation due to a variety of nagging injuries over the past few seasons. That includes an MCL injury suffered in the Third Quarter of the Super Bowl that he currently rehabbing and his considered on target to fully recover from in time for the 2013 campaign. Due to the Ravens recent roster addition he should be able to play more inside over the center which is where he feels most comfortable.
Chris Canty is one of the more intriguing free agent additions the Ravens made to bolster the line. The nine-year vet has impressive size (6’7″), athleticism and has shown an ability to get to the quarterback during his career. He should be able to play both inside and outside and can allow the Ravens to present varying looks to the opposition. Marcus Spears was another free agent move that should pay off well. Similar to Canty he is versatile and has a proven track record of success in the NFL. He is more of a run stuffer and that should be just fine for a team looking to improve its ability to halt running backs.
Another interesting player is third round draft pick Brandon Williams who has incredible physical tools (6’1″, 335 lbs.) but will need experience against top competition to make the jump to the NFL. He’ll be challenged by former second round pick Terrence Cody now in his fourth season who is working back from injury. Cody had a difficult season last year due to poor performance and perhaps losing too much weight and needs strong performances in camp to regain his staring spot that he held in 2011 and to hold off the hungry Williams.
Arthur Jones has worked himself into a possible starting role at end after a breakout season. He appeared in every game starting in six and registered 47 tackles with 4.5 sacks. The quiet Jones should be a key cog in the rebuilt defensive line plan. Former Seventh-Round pick DeAngelo Tyson cracked the starting rotation for a few games due to injury last season and should continue to challenge the starters. Cody Larsen was an un-drafted free agent from Southern Utah. He’ll need a strong training camp to open some eyes to nab a spot on the roster.
Predictions: This is an important season for Ngata who was paid as one of the elite defensive players in the game a few years ago yet has been unable to justify the cost with sagging production due to multiple injuries. Adding vets such as Spears and Canty with Jones and either Williams or a revitalized Cody should help keep their marquee player fresher. I also believe that moving Ngata inside is also a good move and should help him.
Chris Canty could be poised for a very solid year. His pass rushing ability could help him fill the “Cory Redding” role of a few season ago at End and he’ll often have a single blocker because of the attention that Suggs, Dummervil, and others will draw. Williams and Cody should battle it out for playing time but most eyes will be on Cody to see if he can be effective otherwise the Ravens will turn to other options and he’d be forced to look for work elsewhere.
On paper this looks like an improved group but some of will hinge on Ngata’s ability to return to form and to allow the new additions to do at least what they have done in the past.