Former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Marcus Spears is poised to assume Arthur Jones' starting spot in the Ravens' base defense in the season opener.

Jones is sidelined with an undisclosed illness.

Because of the Denver Broncos' fast-break passing game, the Ravens are expected to utilize a lot of nickel defense looks with strong-side linebacker Elvis Dumervil and rush linebacker Terrell Suggs crowding the line of scrimmage.

In that personnel grouping, the only traditional defensive linemen on the field are
nose tackle Haloti Ngata and defensive tackle Chris Canty.

"To me, starting isn't really a big deal because guys are in a rotation all year," said Spears, a 2005 first-round draft pick from LSU who has 119 career tackles and 10 sacks. "Whoever starts and finishes doesn't matter, you just got to play well when you're up. Next man up, those situations happen every year I've been in the league. You got to compete when you get the call."

Spears is healthy now after dealing with a hamstring issue for a major portion of the preseason.

"Marcus has been around, he's in great shape," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's practiced well since he got over the hamstring. He really looks good, and he's ready to go."

awilson@baltsun.com

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