Defensive Linemen (11):
There was certainly an expectation that the Ravens would use the Draft to pick up a top edge rusher. Instead, the team’s D-Line still appears to be “Haloti and company.”
By applying the franchise tag to Ngata, the team locked in their best defensive player (and reigning Team MVP) for at least another season. It is believed the team will continue to work to sign Ngata to a long-term extension this offseason, which should be a priority.
Redding (pictured above) probably didn’t get enough credit for his 2009 campaign. As a free agent D-End, many fans in town thought he would be an answer to an anemic pass rush unit. He was never that type of player, but really because a solid all-around lineman and was certainly an upgrade over the departed Dwan Edwards.
The Ravens have a clog of Defensive Tackles after that. Gregg is the veteran of the group but is in the Autumn of his NFL career. The Ravens would be thrilled to see Cody get more reps this season after a disappointing rookie year out of Alabama. McKinney has been a very solid contributor for the team, which they will expect to see continue. Jones and Divens have at least looked the part on the field, but have spent more time scratched than dressed. Talavou missed the entire season with a torn ACL but had looked like a decent contributor before that.
McPhee was the only rusher the team selected in the Draft, he’ll look to push Kruger to get some snaps off the edge. It’s hard to expect much from him early on, but it’s not hard to imagine him making the roster. Kruger has not stood out through two seasons, but made some improvements in 2010 after moving to D-End full time.
Make no mistake, Defensive End will HAVE to be a priority for the team if free agency ever begins.
A nod to McClellan, who I didn’t mention. Now I’ve mentioned him. I can’t imagine I will again.
Prescott Burgess (non-tendered)
It’s hard to imagine that Ray Lewis isn’t the team’s most significant player at the position, but we all know it’s the truth. Suggs was brilliant last year, the Ravens are of course hoping he doesn’t revert back to the “on one year, off the next” form he’s shown at times in his career.
Lewis is of course fine, but we now legally have to include the words “he’s not getting any younger” after every time we mention his name. There is at least a question as to whether or not Pro Bowl-caliber play should still be expected from #52 year in and year out, but the team isn’t concerned about his play dropping off.
Johnson battled a number of injuries in 2010 as his level of play clearly dropped a bit from where it was in 2009. That being said, Johnson has remained reliable throughout his career and there is no reason to expect that to change in 2011. His long term future might be a question mark in Baltimore, but there’s no concern immediately.
The Ravens will (likely) have all three of McClain, Ellerbe and Gooden back in the fold for 2011 to try to find suitable play opposite Lewis at the “Will” LB spot. None have solidified the position whatsoever, but all have played at least fairly well at times. Bringing in another ILB during free agency is likely still an option for the organization.
Kindle (pictured above) might be the biggest question mark for the entire franchise. The 2010 second round pick out of Texas has been cleared to return to football activity after missing what would have been his rookie season following a fall that resulted in a fractured skull. If he can work his way back to an actual football field and perform at a level similar to what the team had hoped for in his rookie season, he could make a major difference for new Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano.
Ayanbadejo remains a valuable Special Teams contributor, but he’ll have to be considered somewhere at least NEAR the roster bubble if the team ever holds a Training Camp. He’ll be 35 years old when the team (hopefully) opens the season September 11 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at M&T Bank Stadium. While he had a solid campaign in 2010 and has been a very solid citizen for the franchise, he’ll have to prove his value again as the team works the roster down to 53.
The team liked Phillips enough to hide him on Injured Reserve in 2009 and keep him on the roster throughout the 2010 season, although he was often scratched. He’ll have to fight to keep a roster spot in 2011. Burgess was not tendered a contract by the Ravens before the lockout and there is no guarantee the team will attempt to bring him back, although they have not ruled it out.