Position: Defensive Tackle
Height / Weight: 6’4″ 345 lbs.
Age: 26 / Experience: 5
He is the hole-clogging, run-stopping, former-rugby-playing, my-legs-are-bigger-than-your-head, I-play-dirty-if-I-have-to beast of a man. He is Haloti Ngata, and he is one hell of a football player. For the past four years, he has been the anchor on the line of one of the top defensive units in the league. Although Ngata didn’t have one of his best statistical seasons last year, only gathering 35 tackles and one and a half sacks in 14 games, he has consistently been one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL.
Ngata is hoping for a full return from a torn left pectoral muscle when training camp begins on July 27. He tore the muscle during last year’s Pro Bowl game and says even though he can’t lift anything too heavy right now, he has about 75 to 80 percent of his strength back. He wasn’t supposed to be returning to the field this quickly, but his rehab in Utah is going better than expected, which is good news for Ravens fans.
The thing about Ngata that is impressive is that he isn’t one of those flashy players who rack up crazy stats. He simply does his job while making everyone around him better. He draws so much attention when the ball is snapped that his fellow linemen and linebackers are able to shoot the gap and either stop the run or get to the quarterback. This is essentially what you want out of your defensive tackle. And he’s not one of those big, fat defensive linemen like Vince Wilfork or Shaun Rogers. He’s actually one of the most athletic defensive tackles in the league. You wouldn’t think a guy who is 6-foot-4, 345 pounds would be able to move the way Ngata does, but I guess all that rugby playing paid off.
2010 Outlook: Something else to look out for besides Ngata’s play on the field is his contract situation. He is entering the final year of his rookie contract, which was a 5-year, $11.9 million deal and is only slated to earn $996,250 this season. There hasn’t been any talk about an extension just yet, but all signs point to Ngata being in line to be the next Raven to sign a multi-million dollar contract. This is definitely high on the organization’s priority list, and if they’re smart, they will extend his contract at some point this season.
Aside from feeling some nagging effects of his injury, there’s no reason why Ngata couldn’t record close to 60 tackles and at least two or three sacks in 2010. He should be able to bounce back nicely from his surgery especially since he’s had a sufficient amount of time to rehab and get his strength back. Ravens fans sure hope to see a healthy Ngata out there gobbling up offensive linemen this season, which will be key if they want to remain one of the top defenses in the league.
Another little tidbit of Ngata news that is worth talking about comes from Indianapolis Colts’ center, Jeff Saturday’s rankings titled “Best in the Biz.” The list, which highlights Saturday’s top five NFL defensive tackles, ranks Ngata at No. 1. Saturday said Ngata isn’t someone he would want staring him in the face if the game was on the line. Saturday also jokingly mentioned that he thought Ngata had enough athletic ability to play safety. Haloti, do all of us a favor and don’t let Saturday’s comments go to your head.