Examining the Ravens Defensive Front

Posted on July 02, 2014 by Rob Michels

Photo Credit: BaltimoreRavens.com

The youth movement continues on the Ravens defense and it is ever present on the defensive line. With really only two players who have proven success in the NFL (Haloti Ngata, Chris Canty). The Ravens used two draft picks on defensive lineman and are expected to use more of a rotation throughout the season.

Let’s take a look into what each player offers to the team and how they are expected to be used. I will not be including undrafted rookies Derrick Hopkins, Jamie Meder, AJ Pataiali’I and Levi Brown. The simply reason is I expect them to be cut or placed on the practice squad. The players I evaluated are ones I believe to be in the rotation or contribute at some point this season.

 

Haloti Ngata, DT, 6’4’’ 340 lbs.

 

He’s been the rock of the defensive line for the past eight seasons, since being drafted in the first round in 2006. Ngata is a fan favorite and will likely be placed in the Ring of Honor at some point after he retires.

In 2013 we saw the same Ngata that’s been destroying offenses for years. His production against the run was outstanding all season. He totaled 52 tackled but was limited to just 1.5 sacks. Part of that was the limited pass rushing opportunities playing nose tackle last season. The best case scenario would be Brandon Williams seals up the nose tackle position so Ngata can move back to his natural position at defensive end.

Ngata graded out as the 19th ranked defensive tackle in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.  I expect him to move up in those rankings with more help along the defensive front.  Either way Ravens fans can expect Ngata to be as consistent as always and play at a Pro Bowl level.

 

Chris Canty, DE, 6’7’’, 317 lbs.

 

Canty is the third oldest Raven at 31 years old and has seen a bit of a decline in production since signing with the team. During his career he’s excelled as an interior pass rusher, but saw only 2 sacks last season. With younger players being brought in Canty could see his roster spot on the line.

The Ravens can save 2 million in cap in 2014 by cutting Canty and an additional 2.6 million in 2015. That’s a good chunk of money being saved on a player that hasn’t made the impact the team had hoped. Right now Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore are the only challengers to Canty’s roster spot.  Neither has NFL experience and that could play into Canty making the final cuts.

In the end, Canty will probably be one of the starting defensive ends. He does have experience and didn’t play horribly last season. He graded out as the 24th 3-4 defensive end in the NFL by PFF.  I do expect Canty to be rotated out more often to give younger players more playing time.  With Arthur Jones bolting in the offseason the hope is Canty can deliver more as a pass rusher.

 

Terrence Cody, NT, 6’4’’, 340 lbs.

 

One of the worst draft picks by the Ravens in team history. Cody was drafted in the second round in 2010 and was expected to be the franchises nose tackle for years. That simply hasn’t happened with injuries and lack of production causing Cody to be phased out of the rotation.

Cody signed a one year deal this offseason to return to the Ravens. His roster spot is very much in danger and offseason hip surgery will keep him out until training camp.  I can only imagine what shape Cody is in after surgery. He’s had problems with weight in the past and faces an uphill battle from the start this season.

I don’t expect any contribution from Cody this season and truly see him being cut by the end of training camp. He’s been a perennial disappointment and was even benched in 2012 by Ma’ake Kemoeatu, which speaks for itself. He was horrible against the run last season and had no effect as a pass rusher.

 

Brandon Williams, DT, 6’1’’, 335 lbs.

 

The hype train has been trucking along all offseason on Williams. The man looks like a tree trunk and is expected to make major contributions along the defensive front.  A dream scenario would be Williams stepping up and taking hold of the nose tackle position and moving Ngata to defensive end.


Injuries slowed him during his rookie year and he was never able to earn a spot in the rotation. Williams totaled only 6 tackles and one sack last season, but was limited to 93 snaps.  This season should be different as many people believe him to be a break out candidate.

It should be exciting to see Williams play in preseason and battle for a starting spot throughout training camp. With limited playing time in his career I do expect a learning curve still and aren’t jumping on the hype training to early. This season should really introduce him to the NFL and find out the type of player he can be.  

 

Timmy Jernigan, DT, 6’2’’, 298 lbs.

 

The Ravens second round pick in this year’s draft has already turned heads this offseason. Right now it appears that if Ngata stays at nose tackle Timmy Jernigan could be the starting defensive end opposite Canty.  

Jernigan has a quick first step off the ball and should contribute against the pass and run. At Florida State there were concerns about his durability and stamina. Playing in the Ravens deep rotation should allow for him to go all out every play he is in.

At OTAs the Ravens coaches and players got a chance to play with Jernigan and most liked what they saw. It’s tough to judge how a rookie will play in the NFL once the balls snapped but so far Jernigan has left a mark.

 

DeAngelo Tyson, DT, 6’2’’, 310 lbs.

 

The former five star recruit out of high school Tyson could be in line for biggest bump in playing time. Tyson contributed 10 tackles last season to go with 2 sacks. He has played limited snaps the past in his two seasons with the Ravens.

There is a very slim chance that Tyson earns a starting job but he has been with the Ravens since 2012 and knows the defense.  He should be able to earn a spot in the rotation with a good training camp and preseason. If he does struggle out of the gates there is a chance that Tyson loses his roster spot.

 

Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE, 6’4’’, 310 lbs.

 

After suffering a torn ACL in the 2012 BCS National Championship playing for Notre Dame, Lewis-Moore sat out his entire rookie season for the Ravens. He rehabbed all last season and appears ready to be one of the young defensive linemen to contribute.

Lewis-Moore was a leader on the field at Notre Dame and brings a wide range of skills to the defensive end position. He suffered a hamstring injury earlier in OTAs and injuries have hampered him so far in his NFL career.  If he can’t stay health his run with the Ravens could be short.  

With good size and the ability to get to the quarterback from the interior there is a spot on the roster for Lewis-Moore. If he has an excellent camp he could even threaten Canty for the starting job.

 

Brent Urban, DE, 6’6’’, 298 lbs.


There was a good chance that Urban would have been drafted much higher than the fourth round if he didn’t need surgery on his ankle. He missed the final four games of his senior year at Virginia because of the ankle injury. Even with the four missed games he led the nation in pass break ups by defensive lineman with nine and was a force against the run.

 At 6’6’’ he has the size to make a difference at the defensive end position but is still probably a year away from contributing.  It would truly make me sick to see the Ravens hang onto a veteran like Cody and let Urban walk. The kid should end up being a solid rotation player in the NFL and has potential to develop into a poor man’s J.J. Watt.  

 

 

By the end of training camp there is a good chance that the Ravens keep six or seven on the front of the defense. The locks to make the team are Ngata, Jernigan, Williams and most likely Canty.  I expect Urban to make the team after they invested a fourth round pick on him this year. The last roster spot should come down to Cody, Lewis-Moore and Tyson. Tyson and Lewis-Moore bring the most potential and there is a good chance that if one gets cut they head to the practice squad. Cody on the other hand should be cut before the season starts.

 

This is a deep rotation which could see all five to six players getting playing time often. The plan should be for Williams to take over the starting nose tackle position and see Canty start opposite Ngata. Jernigan should see a ton of snaps as a rookie but brought along slowly so he can develop. Urban will struggle to see time but Tyson or Lewis-Moore should see some snaps if healthy.

 

This front should help keep the Ravens defense strong and could possibly help return them to being an elite defense.

Posted in: Offseason
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