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Starting Linebackers: Terrell Suggs-Ray Lewis-Jameel McClain-Jarrett Johnson.
Starting Defensive Linemen: Haloti Ngata-Terrence Cody-Corey Redding.
Other key contributors: Dannelle Ellerbe, Tavares Gooden, Sergio Kindle*
The loss of Kelly Gregg does hurt this defense despite former second round pick Terrence Cody slotting into the starting spot. I'm not buying what Cody is selling. He appears to lack the intensity to play in the NFL, that may just have been overthinking as a rookie, but I wasn't impressed during the limited play time he did get last year.
Corey Redding was somewhat of the other guy when playing alongside Ngata and Gregg but he still held up his own last year. Redding had three sacks which is impressive for a 3-4 defensive end. Last season was his first with the Ravens but at 30 years of age you know what you are getting from the stout defender.
Haloti Ngata could see more time over the center next year if Cody can't step up but that won't bother him. Ngata for me is not only the best defensive lineman in the league, he is arguably one of the best players in the league. He is unblockable. There is not one single player in the whole league that can hold him back on his own.
Ngata is equally brilliant against the run and pass while rarely leaving the field. He is always the focus of opposing offensive linemen because of the damage that he can do. His versatility position wise makes him scheme omniscient.
He is not the kind of player that just does one job. The likelihood is if he was asked to stand up and rush the passer from outside linebacker he'd probably still make it because he is in perfect shape. He may be 300+ pounds but he does not need to lose a pound of weight.
The young stars play is a big reason in why Ray Lewis has been able to continue his career towards his forties. There is no doubt that Lewis has lost a step or two physically but his brain is still as fresh as ever.
He can still rattle opposing players—just ask Dustin Keller—and make big plays when his team needs him to. His leadership of course is unmatched throughout the whole league.
What Lewis lacks in movement, his partner at inside linebacker does not. Jameel McClain became a starter for the first time last season and while he is not the most overwhelming physically he does do a good job of getting around the field and plays well in pass coverage.
McClain needs to grow into his role as a starter and will hopefully—for the Ravens at least—give the team much more explosiveness next year.
The Ravens have a fantastic group of run stuffers across their front seven but the one truly disruptive force in the passing game is undoubtedly Terrell Suggs.
While his counterpart on the other side, Jarrett Johnson, is potentially the most underrated player on the team because of his brilliant all around play, the Ravens need to find another pass rusher to aid Suggs.
Suggs had 11 sacks last year and was the only Raven above six—Haloti Ngata had 5.5. He is a hybrid defensive end and outside linebacker as he literally does play both positions in the Ravens different formations.
Despite offenses knowing that he is coming he still finds a way to the quarterback because of his relentless motor and overwhelming talent.
What could make our break the Ravens front seven next season is Sergio Kindle. Kindle's status as a football player—not least his effectiveness as one—remains totally up in the air.
If fully healthy, the former Texas star, gives the team everything they are looking for. He is a pass rushing specialist who would give the team the perfect balance alongside Terrell Suggs.
No team can survive with just the one pass rusher, you always have to have a complement. It speaks to how good the rest of the group is that they still made it into the top 10 in the whole league. The loss of Kelly Gregg, reliance on Ray Lewis as he fights Father Time and the lack of a more dynamic pass rush prevents this group from being right at the top.
Which is where they have tended to be over the past decade or so.