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Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams (98) looks on after being called for encroachment against the Denver Broncos. Despite that call, Williams was perhaps the Ravens' best player in the game.
Ravens defensive tackle Brandon Williams (98) looks on after being called for encroachment against the Denver Broncos. Despite that call, Williams was perhaps the Ravens' best player in the game. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)

On a defensive line that's used three starting lineups through three games due to injuries and inconsistent play, nose tackle Brandon Williams has been a standout whose efforts defensive coordinator Dean Pees believes have been "overshadowed" some by the team's struggles.

"If you watch, he really played a pretty good game [against the Cincinnati Bengals]," Pees said." He pushed the pocket. The guy was a dominating force inside. We still haven't had teams really run the ball on us in a [game]. We've been pretty good against the run, and a lot of that's due to him inside. I think he's having a great year."

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The third-year behemoth was arguably the Ravens' best defensive player in Week 1 against the Denver Broncos and Week 3 against the Bengals, anchoring a run defense that has allowed 87 yards per game.

That's the seventh-fewest in the NFL, and the group has so far maintained a streak of 29 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Williams has started 19 of those games.

The cast around him has changed drastically, both from last season and through this one. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is a Detroit Lion, and four players have started on either side of him so far.

Second-year defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, Ngata's anointed replacement, missed Week 1 with a knee injury, with rookie Carl Davis starting in his stead. Jernigan started in Week 2 against Oakland, then gave way to Davis in the starting lineup in Week 3. Jernigan played a handful more snaps than Davis Sunday, though Jernigan was in on passing situations more than anything else.

At defensive end, Lawrence Guy has spelled veteran Chris Canty, who left the Raiders game with a calf injury and has been out since. Guy started in his place against the Bengals and said a player like himself is able to step in so seamlessly because the designation of starter or reserve doesn't apply to their position group.

"It's something that our coach [Clarence Brooks] tells us, something each player tells each other — when you get on that field, you're a starter then," Guy said. "If you touch that field, you're a starter. It doesn't matter if you started the game, played four or five games, or play 120 plays. As soon as you touch that field, you've got to go out there and play like a starter and give it all you've got."

Guy had seven tackles against the Bengals, one shy of his career high of eight. It was his second start in 17 games with the Ravens, both coming when Canty was injured. He's on pace to blow away his previous career high for tackles in a season of 20, with 14 already through three games.

It's quite a contribution for a player who was claimed off waivers from the San Diego Chargers just over a year ago.

"I love it here," Guy said. "The people here are like family. I love the coaches. I've got a great mentor. … Chris Canty is a great peer of mine, a great mentor of mine, coaches me up. I've got Marshal Yanda next to me [in the locker room]. He's great to me. It's a good community. I think we thrive as a team because we're so bonded together as family."

At such a taxing position, a rotation policy will hold true even when starters are healthy and settled upon. Kapron Lewis-Moore has rolled through the line at every position in the two games he has been active, as well. And with every body they can get into the lineup, the expected improvement of the group will grow nearer to reality.

"They played better than they did in Oakland as a group, and I also believe they're capable of playing even better than that," coach John Harbaugh said. "We expect our front seven to be dominant, and we have the guys to do it. They're just the men for the job, and that's what we're looking for."

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