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Stable defensive line brings out best in Haloti Ngata, Ravens run defense

Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata.
Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata. (Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has earned praise for being able to play at every position on the defensive front, giving the team a constant in what typically becomes a fluid unit each year.

Entering the bye week, defensive coordinator Dean Pees said that playing his All-Pro lineman at one position for the entire season has made life easy for Ngata, and the results are showing it.

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"Believe it or not, things go on really fast in that little guard-to-guard area and a little slower the farther out that you go, and there's a lot of difference in that," Pees said. "When you take a guy, move him [outside] one week and then move him back in there inside the next week, it's hard. It's hard to do that. So, I really think part of [Ngata's success] is because we've had the ability to leave guys in the same position and not move them all over."

Playing in former Ravens lineman Arthur Jones' position as the defensive tackle in Pees' 3-4 defense, Ngata's athleticism and ability have shone through in nearly every way this year. He's tied for the team lead with two interceptions, is tied for fourth with two sacks, and is second only behind cornerback Jimmy Smith with seven pass deflections on the year. He has 28 tackles as well.

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Ngata can stay at defensive tackle in part due to the emergence of second-year nose tackle Brandon Williams, who has occupied the center of the defensive line all season. Chris Canty, Lawrence Guy, and DeAngelo Tyson have rotated at defensive end, while rookie Timmy Jernigan and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee take snaps on the defensive line in passing situations.

Overall, Ngata is anchoring a run defense that ranks sixth in the league in both yards allowed per game (84.5) and yards allowed per attempt (3.4). No player has run for 100 yards in the last 20 games against the Ravens, the longest streak in the NFL.

Ngata's ability to collapse the pocket helps there, but Pees believes those numbers are a testament to the entire group on the defensive line.

"I think Brandon Williams is playing very, very good as a young nose guard," Pees said. "I really like the play that we're getting out of [Chris] Canty, Lawrence Guy, DeAngelo [Tyson]. [Timmy] Jernigan is in there, too. He is really an active player. So, I think we have a little bit of depth there. The other thing that goes along with that there is a little bit of competition, too. You better not back off too far, or somebody is catching you. Competition is always good for everybody."

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