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Run responsibilities keep rookie Carl Davis focused as role grows

Run responsibilities keep rookie Carl Davis focused as role grows
Ravens rookie defensive tackle Carl Davis has supplanted Timmy Jernigan in the starting lineup. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)

Rookies have been thrust into big roles all over the Ravens' roster so far, but in third-round NFL draft pick Carl Davis, the team seems to have found a starter on the defensive line at the expense of a player who made a similar impact as a rookie last year.

Davis, over the past two weeks, has started over second-year defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and become a run-down force alongside nose tackle Brandon Williams on the Ravens' defensive front.

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He still rushes the quarterback some, but gives way to Jernigan on passing downs to let the explosive second-round pick get after the passer when the Ravens send pressure.

That separation has not only helped Davis get on the field a lot as a rookie, but allows him to compartmentalize his responsibilities a bit more.

"It just helps me focus more," Davis said. "I understand I'm more of a run-stuffer, clog holes, trying to keep bodies on me on the offensive line so our linebackers can make plays. When Za'Darius [Smith] and Timmy come in, those are two guys who are explosive and good at what they do and they create some pressure on the quarterback.

"I feel like we've got one of the best defensive lines in the league," Davis said. "We get a lot of pressure, and we can stop the run."

Davis admits to having a lot of responsibility for someone with just four NFL games under his belt, but credits those around him with easing that transition. Williams is the quintessential run-stuffer, while Jernigan had a big role in that as a rookie.

"Playing a lot and just being in the NFL, it's fun and it's challenging," Davis said. "We've got some great teammates, and they try to help me out a lot. Brandon and Timmy and the rest of the [defensive] line, they help me out in trying to get better every day in practice and in the games."

To this point, Davis hasn't statistically stood out. He has five tackles and has also swatted two passes at the line of scrimmage. His impact is probably best stated by the fact that teams have needed either a high volume of runs, overtime, or both to post numbers in the running game against the Ravens this year.

This week, the challenge is running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson in a Browns rushing attack that averages 89.8 yards per game, 25th in the NFL. Crowell will try to run through holes in the middle, while Johnson is a guy who likes to get outside.

Coach John Harbaugh said this week that Jernigan was improving, but seemed to indicate his decrease in playing time was down to a lack of consistent effort. That effort was improving, Harbaugh said.

Jernigan seemed upset by the development after last week's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. If nothing else, he has an opportunity to be fresh in the pass-rush, though he acknowledged Wednesday being "a little bit" upset.

"At the end of the day, like I always tell Carl, I can't be mad at him for what happened," Jernigan said. "All he did was come in and do what he was supposed to do. The guy works hard, seems to work hard, seems to do good things.

"All I can do is worry about what I'm doing. What can I do? At the end of the day, everybody's got to run their own race."

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