Positional Review Preview: Defensive Line

bannan

2008 Review:

The Ravens for years have always been defined by their defense and most notably being able to stuff the run. The front three or four or five, depending on the formation continued its dominance in the trenches throughout 2008. They were ranked third in the league yielding only 81.4 yards per contest.

The twelve year vet, Trevor Pryce rebounded from major injury and provided a presence off the edge. His sack numbers were down dramatically (from 13 in 2006 to only 4.5) but he did seem to get penetration and to me it always seemed as if he was getting held at least twice a game before he was on the quarterback.

Nose Tackle, Kelly Gregg sat out all of the 2008 with knee issues which had to require surgery. This should have been a big blow to the interior line as Gregg uses great leverage, and and his wrestling background to compensate for only being 6 feet tall.

But with Gregg on the shelf it allowed next man up, Justin Bannan to shine as the starter. Bannan helped control the line and had his best season (45 Total tackles, 30 solo) and 1 interception.

Haloti Ngata continued his steady improvement and started to establish himself as one of the league’s premier defensive tackles. A frightening sight at six four, three hundred and forty pounds he used brute force as well as uncanny agility on the field. He recorded 55 Total tackles, 43 solo and grabbed two interceptions. Ngata also called on his old Rugby background and was placed on the short yardage team on offense.

Dwan Edwards a second round pick in 2004 finally became a regular contributor in the line rotation. He completed his first full season with 41 total tackles, 1 sack and 1 interception. (By the way have you seen a team with more lineman that have interceptions?)

Brandon McKinney, signed as a free agent from San Diego was also brought in to help with Gregg’s departure and chipped in nicely on the line. Another former Raven that was brought back into the fold was Marques Douglas who worked off the end. He had 36 tackles in a full season but could not register a sack.

2009 Preview:

The biggest news is that Kelly Gregg appears ready for 2009 and he should be at full strength, which would be welcome news to add to the interior. The popular “Buddy Lee” will be a welcome sight on the field with his high motor and fighting attitude.(He thought about MMA if he couldn’t play football)

Marques Douglas was the only departure and didn’t provide nearly the rush of the passer the team had hoped for so he followed Rex Ryan to the Jets as well. In order to replace him they drafted Paul Kruger out of Utah, who has impressed so far in mini camp. The question will be weather or not he is big enough to play on the line or if he will be yet another hybrid type pass rusher.

Hopefully Kruger will be able to inject some much needed activity towards the quarterback. One problem area for the past two years has been establishing consistent pressure to the quarterback. The Ravens only had 34 team sacks last year and no player was in double digits, which seems odd for a team that causes havoc on defense but its an area that they have been vulnerable. It’s also another reason why re-signing Terrell Suggs to a long term deal is such a priority.

Is this Trevor Pryce’s last season? There was some talk that the aspiring screen writer was set to retire this year but he’s back and you wonder if he can return to some of his old form as a sack master. If he stays away from injury I think he could top out between 6 and 8 sacks but this looks to be his final campaign.

Haloti Ngata will continue to push around foes on the line but if there is one area that he needs to improve upon is getting into the backfield more. He only had one sack last year and he should improve those totals. This is a contract year and I’d expect his best season to date.

Bannan and McKinney should help provide depth to this group and I’d expect the Ravens to continue to be stout against the Run and at least maintain their below 100 yard rushing yards streak per game.

But again the concern is pressure to the quarterback but that’s where the linebackers can come into play to cover those deficiencies.

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