Baltimore is spoiled in the sense they always seem to have a great D-Line. So while many considered this an off year for the group, they still managed to help lead the team to be the #3 rated defense. They also were effective in stopping the run, except for a stretch in the middle of the season. They seemed to lack the big plays that everyone was used to seeing. It’s the big plays that make this defense see so imposing.
Haloti Ngata- My first real memory of Ngata this season was watching Ngata pick off a Mark Sanchez pass and return it for a touchdown during the 2nd preseason game. I’m thinking now that many Baltimore fans along with myself expected Ngata to develop into a strong pass rusher and a big play guy. That never really happened. He was solid up front in stopping the run. He made some push upfield with the rush, but he never made it to the QB. Well, he did. He had a whopping 1.5 sacks to go along with his 35 tackles. I think what Ngata really brought to the table was his ability to demand a double team as well as take a lot of space on the inside. Really it’s hard to argue with a player who was selected to go to the Pro Bowl.
Kelly Gregg- People were excited to have Kelly “Buddy Lee” Gregg back on the field this season after missing the previous season after micro-fracture surgery on his knee. What they didn’t expect was for him to play the entire season with a labrum injury. Gregg is not a guy who is in there to pressure the QB, but he was able to to register 3 sacks in the final 3 games of the regular season. He also added 63 tackles. It was solid performance in the end but nothing spectacular. It was a good sign that Gregg played his best ball at the end of the year. It took some time for him to bounce back, but perhaps Gregg has something left in the tank.
Dwan Edwards- Midway through the season, Dwan found himself starting for the first time in 2 years. Not only was he providing benefit to the defensive line, but he was allowing Trevor Pryce to be more effective in situational roles. It was good to see Edwards increase his productivity. He is not a guy who does any one thing exceedingly well, but he is starting to justify Ozzie spending a 2nd round pick on him.
Trevor Pryce- For a guy who many people started to say that his age was catching up with him, Pryce had a productive year. He had 6.5 sacks. He made big plays. He also got some rest. As his PT started to decrease, his productivity increased. I think this could attribute to one of the big turnarounds in the Ravens Defense. Pryce no longer has the explosion to be the threat he once was, but he adds value to this defense. It will be interesting to see if he is back next year.
Terrell Suggs- Sizzle got paid this year, but he never made it rain on the field. Suggs, reportedly, showed up to camp out of shape, got hurt in the pre-season and was out of shape for a good portion of the first half. He had a highlight play here and there, but the sacks weren’t coming. Then, after a cheap shot by Browns QB Brady Quinn, Sizzle missed another 4 or 5 games. It wasn’t until the playoffs where we saw Suggs act like the old Suggs. If I could point to one player as the reason the defensive line took so long to gel and struggled to pressure the QB, it would have to be him. Suggs needs to step his preparation up this off-season and have a year worthy of the money the Ravens have invested in him.
Excellent analysis. While the Ravens have some pressing needs this offseason, an area that few fans talk about is the defensive line. As you stated, Pryce is up in age. While Gregg played well late, we gotta remember 3 of the last 4 games were against some of the worst teams in football. That knee still is not 100% and may never be. Suggs planned to get in shape in training camp, but injuries prevented him from doing that. He still can be a force and Edwards may develop too. Bottom line is that they really don't have an impact rusher on the squad, but they rely on their hybrid type LBs to get the pressure anyway. Don't be surprised if this isn't one of the first needs they fill despite the need for a WR and defensive backs.
I really hope and expect to see a changed Terrell Suggs in 2010. The guy got the big contract and he slacked off in 2009. Sure he showed up to camp, but he nursed an injury and only effective in a few situations throughout the season. One of them happened to be the New England game in the playoffs. Harbaugh wants this guy in camp and wants him in better shape. I hope he does everything in his power to make that happen.
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