The Ravens still have a couple weeks and two preseason games to make final decisions on which players will make the 53-man roster, but their defensive line rotation appears to be pretty settled at this point.
From the start of training camp to today, we have consistently seen defensive end Chris Canty, nose tackle Haloti Ngata and defensive tackle Arthur Jones with the first-team defense. That is a talented and versatile trio that should be stout against the run while also providing some push if the quarterback drops back to pass.
In obvious passing situations, it looks as if Jones might often take a seat while Canty and Ngata play the tackle spots between outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, who become de facto defensive ends.
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Behind those three starters, we have usually seen the same faces on the second-team defense throughout training camp.
Rookie Brandon Williams has seen time at nose tackle and defensive tackle and he looks like he will be a solid contributor this season. Veteran Marcus Spears can be a decent run stuffer if called upon, though he hasn’t practiced in the past 10 days due to a hamstring injury. And then there is Terrence Cody, who has been one of the pleasant surprises of the preseason.
Cody has been a big disappointment in his first three seasons with the Ravens, and he is in the final year of his rookie deal, but he has actually performed pretty well in the preseason, grading out positively, according to coach John Harbaugh. Cody is nothing more than a backup at this point, but the nose tackle appears to have locked down a roster spot for 2013.
It helps Cody’s cause that no young defensive linemen have seized their opportunities. DeAngelo Tyson, a second-year player who is on the roster bubble, hasn’t made much of an impact this summer. Neither have rookie free agents Will Pericak and Cody Larsen. Barring an injury, it would be mildly surprising if one of those players made the team.
Plus, the Ravens can get away with carrying six defensive linemen because Pernell McPhee, who has been moved to rush linebacker, can play defensive tackle in sub packages and can shift back to defensive end if the Ravens are in a pinch. He looks lost playing in space on the edge, but his positional flexibility makes him a nice player to have on the 53-man roster.
The Ravens have until Aug. 31, the day rosters must be cut down to 53 players, to make their final decisions. But it looks like you can probably start carving this rotation into stone.