Patchwork defensive line more than holding its own

As practice ended and players were headed toward the locker room, Ravens defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi was standing on the sideline. His jersey was drenched with perspiration and sweat poured down his forehead.

He ran a few sprints, and then he ran some more.


"Coach Brooks [defensive line coach Clarence Brooks] told me it might be hot in Tampa, so I might want to work some more cardio," Bilukidi said of the Ravens' opponent Sunday.

I know what you are thinking. "Who is Christo Bilukidi?" I have a better question. "Who is Lawrence Guy?"


Because of injuries, the Ravens have been forced to make players like Bilukidi and Guy part of the regular rotation on the defensive line along with regulars Haloti Ngata, Brandon Williams, DeAngelo Tyson and Pernell McPhee.

Injuries in training camp cut short the seasons of promising young defensive linemen Kapron Lewis-Moore (Achilles) and Brent Urban (knee). Recent injuries to rookie Tim Jernigan (knee) and veteran Chris Canty (wrist) have forced them out of the lineup for several weeks.

The Ravens had no where else to turn.

"I've always tried to stay positive," said Bilukidi. "The Ravens signed me off waivers so obviously they thought I could play and I would play. It was shaky learning the system the first two weeks, but I have become more comfortable in the last two to three weeks.

"It's all about reps. They did some things differently in Cincinnati, where they had calls. Here, they just expect you to know what you're supposed to do as far as which way to slant, containment and other things. I'm more comfortable now. I better be. This is the National Football League."

This will be the fourth stop in four years for Guy, who previously played in Green Bay, Indianapolis and San Diego. Bilukidi played in Oakland and Cincinnati during the last two years before coming to Baltimore.

According to Williams, the Ravens system isn't hard to learn.

"The coaches try to keep it as simple as possible," Williams said. "The biggest difference is the word association. Its stuff they have seen before and done already, but now you have different words that go with the plays. But these guys have done a good job of meeting with CB [Brooks] in the morning and going over the plays and personnel.

"The key is learning all three positions [end, nose tackle and tackle] because you never know when you're going to play that position. It's just a matter of knowing where you line up because the blocks are all the same."

The Ravens are fortunate to have Brooks, one of the team's top assistants. He has been around since 2005 and his biggest asset has been building a strong trust with his players.

They also have general manager Ozzie Newsome, who learned the game from New England head coach Bill Belichick. Newsome was taught that you never have enough defensive linemen on the roster.

When you do, hide some, which is why he had Bilukidi and Guy waiting.


The injuries have forced some of the Ravens to mature faster like Tyson, a third-year player who started playing well at the end of last season.

Williams is just in his second season. McPhee, a fourth year player, knows the system well having played all three down line positions as well as outside linebacker.

Maybe no one knows the system better than Professor Ngata.

"Maybe it's because I play the same position as him, but he is always behind me, offering me suggestions on things such as tightening or widening my alignment depending on certain formations," Bilukidi said. "He definitely has been a big influence."

Surprisingly, there hasn't been much fall off in production. Neither Guy or Bilukidi are going to impress you physically, but they are hustlers.

The Ravens would like to get more pressure on quarterbacks from their down linemen, but they are ranked No. 8 in run defense allowing just 89.4 yards a game.

Tampa Bay is averaging 90.4 yards per game, led by former Raven Bobby Rainey, who has 220 yards on 47 carries and backup Doug Martin, who has 94 yards on 37 attempts.

But Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith is committed to the run.

"A lot of times by the commitment, you just look at the amount of rushes you had on the offensive side of the ball," Smith said. "So it starts with that, and then, of course, your game plan, and then you adjust during the game."

The Ravens are prepared, and they believe they have a good chemistry. Before this season started, Williams had never met Guy or Bilukidi.

"We play off each other all the time," Williams said. "We hang out and we joke around, but when it's time for business, we get it done. I greeted the guys with open arms. They are Ravens. Regardless of who goes down, the show must go on."

They have gotten the message.

"I didn't watch much football when I was growing up, but I knew who Ray Lewis was and what defense has meant to this team," Bilukidi said. "It's always been special here. Our job is to keep that going."

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