It's been fun to watch Joe Flacco's baby steps this season. Ed Reed is still one of the most exciting players in the league, on either side of the ball. Ray Lewis remains a steady, but emotional, rock in the middle of the Ravens' defense. Terrell Suggs and Trevor Pryce have been clutch. So many guys have contributed to the Ravens' surprise success, it's hard to single out any one man.
So excuse me if I attempt to do just that.The most valuable guy wearing a purple jersey this year has been none other than Haloti Ngata.
It's hard to celebrate great defensive tackles because it's hard for most casual football observers to understand their impact on the game. But Ngata - especially after it was determined that fireplug Kelly Gregg couldn't play this year - has been the key to everything. His 39 tackles can't begin to speak to how important he is to what the Ravens do.
He's impossible to move, which makes it hard for opposing teams to run on Baltimore. He collapses the pocket almost as well as anyone in the league, which makes it easier for guys like Suggs and Pryce to put heat on the opposing quarterbacks.
Physically, he's a freak. He's like a rhinoceros with the balance of a ballerina, even possessing the ability to drop into short pass coverage on occasion. At 24, he's only going to get better.
Ngata is the most humble Raven. That counts for a lot in a locker room where egos occasionally clash.
Finding a cornerstone defensive tackle is one of the hardest tasks an NFL GM is faced with, almost as difficult as finding a franchise quarterback. Too many big guys eat their way out of the league, or get lazy. That's not going to happen to Ngata. He's driven, focused and humble. We might not notice him as often as some other players, but his value has been immeasurable.