Tag Archive | "haloti ngata"

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Returning Ngata auditioning for future in playoff run

Posted on 30 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The timing couldn’t have been better for the return of Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata from a four-game suspension.

Not only do the Pittsburgh Steelers loom in the first round of the AFC playoffs, but Baltimore lost rookie defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan — Ngata’s replacement over the last month — to a foot injury in the regular-season finale. Even if the Steelers are without Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell on Saturday night, there’s no understating the boost a five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman can provide for a postseason run.

“He was missed a lot in the locker room, especially by me,” said outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who’s teamed with Ngata for the last nine years. “But as soon as we won [last Sunday], we saw the score, we’re in, and we’re like, ‘Yo, we get Haloti back.’ Now the locker room is kind of back [and] complete, so to say. It’s good to have one of the best interior linemen in the game going into a big playoff game like this.”

Teammates and coaches appear to have welcomed Ngata back with open arms after a positive test for Adderall cost him the final four games of the regular season, but it’s fair to wonder how much damage might have been done to his potential future in Baltimore. Ngata is scheduled to carry a $16 million salary cap figure in 2015 — the final year of a $61 million deal signed in 2011 — and many wondered how the Ravens would plan to address his contract long before the news came of his suspension on Dec. 4.

The 2006 first-round pick is one of the best players in franchise history and has been a respected member of the locker room for nearly a decade, which made his suspension as surprising as it was disappointing. In the midst of his strongest season since 2011, Ngata testing positive for Adderall was, at best, a substantial error in judgment as it now makes critics question how long he’s used a drug the NFL considers a performance-enhancing substance without a prescription.

Ngata was noncommittal when asked if he’d seek a prescription to use Adderall in the future, preferring to keep the focus on the Ravens’ fourth all-time postseason meeting with Pittsburgh.

“It was rough — definitely rough,” Ngata said of his ban. “I was talking to a bunch of the guys, and it felt like I was retired watching football during the season while I was just at home watching the game. It felt weird, but I’m just glad that we were able to get the wins and get into the playoffs.”

The 30-year-old has played at a high level this season, but his suspension offered the Baltimore defense an opportunity to see how it would fare without him. Winning three of four games, the Ravens remained stout against the run as second-year nose tackle Brandon Williams and Jernigan anchored the defensive line for the league’s fourth-ranked rush defense. In truth, the unit didn’t appear to miss a beat, which is more of a compliment to the rest of the defensive line than a slight to Ngata.

General manager Ozzie Newsome and the front office have often preached about an “80/20 rule” for valuing players in which the Ravens will seek out players offering 80 percent of the production for 20 percent of the cost of a high-priced player. One wonders if spending high draft picks on Williams and Jernigan over the last two years and their performance in Ngata’s absence will ultimately push the veteran out the door this offseason — and save $8.5 million in cap space in the process.

Ngata will not only be returning to try to help the Ravens make another postseason run, but he’ll be auditioning for his future — in Baltimore or elsewhere. There’s no way the Ravens can justify a $16 million cap figure for Ngata next season, but the 340-pound defensive tackle has the opportunity to remind everyone of how much havoc he can create for an opposing offensive line.

But first, all eyes will be on his conditioning on Saturday after a four-game layoff.

“He’s been training — that’s what he told me,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “He looks good, and I’m sure he is. I’m sure he’s busting out of his skin. I’m sure he’s ready to go.”

The Ravens hope he’s ready to help them beat Pittsburgh for the first time ever in the postseason, and Ngata has plenty to prove in bouncing back from the lowest point of his NFL career. A standout showing in the postseason would make the Ravens feel better about pursuing a short-term extension with Ngata like they did with Suggs a year ago, but a quiet performance could reinforce the sentiment that it might be best to move on from the still-talented defensive tackle who is now on the wrong side of 30.

Ultimately, Newsome may decide it’s better to part ways with Ngata a year too early than to throw too much money at a player who isn’t getting any younger. His future may come down to just how much loyalty and regret he feels after putting his team in a bad spot over the final quarter of the regular season and how that could factor into negotiations.

If Ngata is looking for another significant payday, he may need to find it elsewhere. But if he’s willing to play ball with the Ravens in lowering his cap figure in exchange for a couple more seasons at a reasonable rate in Baltimore, he’ll have a chance to finish his career where it started.

“I just feel like I owe these guys,” said Ngata of his teammates. “I’m just going to do whatever I can to help the team, and I’m definitely just ready to get back out there again.”

The Ravens are certainly welcoming him back for what they hope is a meaningful postseason run, but how long will he remain after that?

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Monroe, Jernigan, two other Ravens missing from Tuesday’s practice

Posted on 30 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — On the same day five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata returned to the practice field, the Ravens were missing four others as they prepared for Saturday’s playoff game with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Working inside their field house for a late Tuesday afternoon practice, the Ravens were without starting left tackle Eugene Monroe (ankle), defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot), and linebackers Arthur Brown (hamstring) and Daryl Smith during the portion of practice open to reporters. It remained unclear whether Smith was receiving a day off or dealing with an ailment as the first injury report of the week won’t be released until Wednesday.

Head coach John Harbaugh left the door open for both Monroe and Jernigan to play against the Steelers, but their status will remain unclear throughout the week. Brown is considered a prime candidate to be placed on injured reserve to make room for the returning Ngata on the 53-man roster.

Defensive end Chris Canty (ankle/thigh) returned to practice after missing the regular-season finale against Cleveland. Linebacker Terrell Suggs (back/thigh) was also present and working despite missing three practices last week and being listed as questionable to play against the Browns before ultimately playing.

Of course, Pittsburgh is dealing with a significant injury of its own as Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell is recovering from a hyperextended knee suffered in the regular-season finale. There is plenty of doubt surrounding his availability for Saturday, which seemed to be confirmed by the Steelers signing veteran running back Ben Tate on Tuesday.

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Ngata set to return from suspension for start of playoffs

Posted on 28 December 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata’s season isn’t over after all.

With Baltimore qualifying for the postseason on Sunday, the five-time Pro Bowl selection will be reinstated Monday after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. In a statement released by the team when he was suspended, Ngata admitted to testing positive for Adderall.

The ninth-year defensive lineman was in the midst of his best season since 2011 as he collected 31 tackles, two sacks, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions in 12 games before news came of his suspension on Dec. 4.

His return comes at the perfect time after rookie Timmy Jernigan left Sunday’s game with a foot injury. After filling in for Ngata over the last four games, Jernigan will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging exam on Monday.

“We get the big guy back,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “It’s very unfortunate about young Timmy Jernigan, but he’s young. Those kids heal amazing. He’s going to heal, and we’re going to get him back when we get him back. But it’s great to get my brother back, to [get] one of the leaders of this team back. That’s huge for us.”

Ngata’s conditioning will be in question after not playing in a game since Week 13.

He reportedly has been training at his home in Utah during the four-game ban. Head coach John Harbaugh said he expects the 6-foot-4, 340-pound Ngata to pick up where he left off when he returns to the Ravens’ Owings Mills facility this week.

Nose tackle Brandon Williams quipped after the game that he sent Ngata a text message reminding him about the defensive line’s lifting session on Monday morning.

“I’m confident Haloti will be ready to go. That’s his job — to be ready to go,” Harbaugh said. “I’m confident he’ll do it. He has done it before. He has been there; he knows what’s at stake.”

 

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Mosley becomes first Ravens rookie to make Pro Bowl

Posted on 23 December 2014 by Luke Jones

After drawing comparisons to Ray Lewis in his short time with the Ravens, inside linebacker C.J. Mosley has accomplished something the future Hall of Famer didn’t in his rookie season.

The 17th overall pick of this year’s draft was selected to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, joining outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil and right guard Marshal Yanda as the Ravens’ selections in 2014.

Mosley is the first rookie in franchise history to be named to the Pro Bowl, which is an impressive accomplishment considering the long list of standout defensive players to play for the Ravens over the last 19 years. The Alabama product is the only player in the NFL with at least 115 tackles, three sacks, and two interceptions this season. His 122 tackles ranks seven in the league and is first among rookies.

He was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month for October and is considered a top candidate to become the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.

“First of all, I thank God for the position I am in,” Mosley said in a statement released by the team. “I also give many thanks to the Ravens organization, especially Mr. Ozzie Newsome and Mr. [Steve] Bisciotti for trusting me and bringing me here to play for such a great team. I wouldn’t be in this position without [inside linebackers coach Don Martindale], Daryl [Smith], Albert [McClellan] and Arthur [Brown], who have all taken me under their wing and helped me get where I am. With Daryl specifically, it’s meant so much having a person and player of his caliber next to me throughout my first NFL season.

“Also, a huge ‘thank you’ goes out to Ravens nation for welcoming me. I am honored and humbled.”

After setting the single-season franchise record with 17 sacks in his second year with Baltimore, Dumervil will go to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time but his first with the Ravens. The nine-year veteran has 90 career sacks, putting him third among active players since 2006. His seven multi-sack performances in 2014 bring his career total to 29 games, which is tied for second in the league since 2006.

Dumervil and fellow outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who was named a first alternate for the Pro Bowl, have formed the best pass-rush duo in the NFL this season as they’ve combined for 28 sacks.

“I also credit Terrell Suggs for helping me this season,” said Dumervil, who thanked his coaches, other teammates, and Ravens fans. “A lot of what I’ve been able to do is a result of the attention he garners on the opposite side. He’s an incredible player who is having another outstanding year, and it’s an honor to play with him.”

Often overlooked because he doesn’t play a glamorous position, Yanda is quietly becoming one of the most decorated players in franchise history after being selected to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl. The eighth-year veteran graded out as the best guard in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.

Yanda has led the way for the league’s seventh-ranked rushing attack and has allowed only one sack all season.

Running back Justin Forsett is probably the Ravens’ toughest snub as he leads all running backs with a 5.3 yards per carry average in a surprising season that began with him at the bottom of the depth chart. The 29-year-old has rushed for a career-high 1,147 yards, ranking sixth in the NFL.

As it currently stands now, this is the first time since 2005 that Baltimore failed to earn at least four selections, but Suggs, Forsett, punter Sam Koch, return specialist Jacoby Jones, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk were all named first alternates and could receive the call as replacements due to injury or other Pro Bowl selections appearing in Super Bowl XLIX.

Koch was the only Ravens player to win the fan vote, which accounts for one-third of the voting with votes from coaches and players accounting for the rest.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata saw his streak of five consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl come to an end. Of course, Ngata’s four-game suspension for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy played a role in the veteran defensive lineman not receiving an invitation.

For the second straight year, participants were chosen without conference affiliation. Selected players will be assigned to two teams picked by Hall of Famers Cris Carter and Michael Irvin in a Pro Bowl draft that will take place on Jan. 21, 2015.

The game will be played on Jan. 25 in Glendale, Ariz.

 

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How much more can the Ravens endure in 2014?

Posted on 04 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — No matter what lies ahead for the Ravens in the final four weeks of the regular season, 2014 has been a year to forget.

Thursday brought the latest reminder with the news of five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata being suspended four games for testing positive for Adderall.

The black cloud from the Ray Rice saga that continues to linger nearly three months after his release, four other offseason player arrests, the season-ending injuries to Dennis Pitta and Jimmy Smith, and one of their longest-tenured players and a team leader being busted for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy just days before the biggest game of the season in Miami.

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“It does feel like it’s always something, but, shoot, that’s life,” wide receiver Torrey Smith said. “Stuff pops up all the time. It’s all about how you deal with it. If Haloti’s back, we’ll be looking back at it like, ‘Alright, that’s something we already brushed off.’ Again, we’ll be in the playoffs [then].”

The loss of Ngata for the rest of the regular season hurts, but it doesn’t necessarily doom the Ravens’ chances of making the playoffs as they’ll now turn to a deep group of defensive linemen led by rookie second-round pick Timmy Jernigan. The league’s fourth-ranked run defense certainly takes a hit, but it’s not unreasonable to expect younger options to step in and do a respectable job in Ngata’s place.

News of the suspension was surprising as it was such a lapse in judgment from a nine-year veteran who has served as one of the Ravens’ most prominent leaders and has earned a positive reputation in the locker room and in the local community. In addition to the stigma of being linked to performance-enhancing drugs — even if it is Adderall — tainting Ngata’s impeccable career, failing a drug test in his ninth year reeks of foolishness more than anything else.

“We know the rules and we have to abide by them,” rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “It is what it is. We have to move on. We just wish the best for him and hope we make it to the playoffs so we can have him back.”

After enduring the loss of Jimmy Smith in late October, the Ravens have now suffered a major blow to the defense up front where they have been robust enough to help account for arguably the worst secondary in franchise history en route to a 7-5 record. From a mental standpoint, the Ravens must handle Ngata’s absence in the same way they would an injury, but his self-inflicted blow certainly can’t sit well with his teammates.

Whether we see the big defensive tackle again this season now falls on the shoulders of a roster that’s endured more than its share of off-field turmoil.

“It was definitely difficult to hear,” Torrey Smith said. “He’s expressed how disappointed he is. I know he’s hurt for it, and we’re going to be hurt by it. We have a lot of guys who have the ability and they’ve got to step up. That’s the philosophy around here.”

To their credit, the Ravens have held true to that mindset as they responded to Rice’s release with a convincing Thursday night win over Pittsburgh in Week 2. The organization continues to come under scrutiny from top to bottom for its handling of the Rice situation, but you’ve never gotten the sense that it’s impacted the play on the field, especially with such a surprising season from veteran Justin Forsett.

The Ravens lost Pitta for a second straight year and then Smith — their most important defensive player — and have still remained within striking distance of the playoffs as they enter the final quarter of the season.

Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, head coach John Harbaugh and his players deserve credit for navigating through such rough waters in 2014.

But at some point, it’s human nature to throw your hands up and wonder if it’s just not your year.

“We’ve dealt with adversity throughout the course of the season in one form or another,” defensive end Chris Canty said. “We’ll step up and meet the challenge. We’ll try to put ourselves in the best position we can to be successful.”

You wonder when enough will be enough.

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Ngata suspended four games for violating NFL’s PED policy

Posted on 04 December 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens’ playoff hopes took a major blow Thursday with the announcement of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata being suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

The news comes as Baltimore prepares for a critical Week 14 road matchup with the Miami Dolphins. Ngata will not be eligible to play for the rest of the regular season after he claims he tested positive for Adderall, which is considered an amphetamine.

The 340-pound defensive lineman would be eligible for the postseason should the Ravens qualify.

“I made a mistake, and I own this,” Ngata said in a statement released by the Ravens. “I took Adderall and take full responsibility for doing this. I am deeply sorry and broken up over this. I let down my family, my teammates, Ravens fans and myself. My hope is that the Ravens make the playoffs, and I believe they can do this. And, then I can come back and help us win.”

Unlike the past when players had all control over commenting about the specifics of a suspension, the NFL’s new drug policy allows the league to publicly dispute a player’s claim of what he tested positive for.

The five-time Pro Bowl selection was in the midst of his best season in a few years as he’s collected 31 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions to lead the league’s fourth-ranked run defense.

The 7-5 Ravens will likely turn to rookie Timmy Jernigan as well as veterans Terrence Cody and DeAngelo Tyson to pick up the slack at Ngata’s 3-technique defensive tackle spot. Baltimore already lost top cornerback Jimmy Smith earlier this year due to a Lisfranc injury, so Ngata’s suspension strips the Ravens of another top player on the defensive side of the ball.

“This is disappointing news for the Ravens,” general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “We are disappointed with Haloti, but no more than he is with himself.”

With the suspension, Ngata will forfeit $2 million from his $8.5 million salary in 2014 with the Ravens recovering $2 million against the salary cap. The 30-year-old has one year remaining on a five-year, $61 million contract signed in 2011, but he is scheduled to carry a $16 million cap figure in 2015, which has led many to speculate about his future as the Ravens will attempt to sign him to an extension or face the possibility of cutting him.

Ngata’s suspension is the latest chapter in a difficult year for the Ravens as they’ve dealt with the fallout from the Ray Rice saga as well as season-ending injuries to Smith and starting tight end Dennis Pitta.

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Ngata’s strong year making difficult decision for Ravens

Posted on 13 November 2014 by Luke Jones

The future of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata beyond this season has been discussed for quite some time, but his strong play is creating quite a dilemma for the Ravens this winter.

After two underwhelming seasons for his high standards, some predicted this could be Ngata’s final year in Baltimore as he’s scheduled to carry a $16 million salary cap figure in 2015 — the final season of a five-year, $61 million contract inked in 2011 — but his excellent start may have altered that line of thinking. Last offseason, general manager Ozzie Newsome pursued a contract extension with Ngata similar in nature to what the Ravens did with veteran linebacker Terrell Suggs, but talks didn’t go anywhere.

A good finish to 2014 might further complicate discussions as the Ravens obviously won’t want to stomach a $16 million cap hit to allow Ngata to play out the final year of his current contract, but his asking price for an extension only climbs as he continues to play well. Cutting Ngata this winter would clear $8.5 million in cap space, but the Ravens wouldn’t easily replace his presence at defensive tackle.

Unlike the last few seasons, Ngata has remained healthy and has benefited from focusing on the 3-technique defensive tackle spot — lining up on the outside shoulder of the guard — instead of moving around to different positions on the defensive line. Ngata drew plenty of double teams while playing nose tackle and wasn’t quick enough to make a consistent impact when lining up at the 5-technique defensive end spot against an offensive tackle.

This has led to Ngata having “a really standout year” in defensive coordinator Dean Pees’ mind.

“We really haven’t moved him this year. It makes a whole lot of difference up front there,” said Pees, who used Ngata extensively at the nose last season. “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. When you take a guy, move him out to [5-technique] one week and then move him back in there inside the next week, it’s hard. It’s hard to do that. I really think part of it is because we’ve had the ability to leave guys in the same position and not move them all over.”

In 10 games, the 6-foot-4, 340-pound tackle has collected 29 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and seven pass breakups. Of course, defensive line play is difficult to quantify, but Pro Football Focus has graded Ngata as the third-best 3-4 defensive end in the league behind Houston’s J.J. Watt and New York Jets lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. The Ravens defense is currently allowing 3.4 yards per carry, its best mark since 2009 and good for sixth in the NFL.

Perhaps the easiest way to measure Ngata’s impact has been the game-changing plays he’s made, which you hadn’t seen as often in the last couple years. In Week 8, it was Ngata’s sack and strip of Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton that led to Daryl Smith’s fumble return and the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Last Sunday, Ngata forced Tennessee running back Shonn Greene to fumble at the goal line on the opening drive, a play that loomed large considering how slowly the Ravens started the game on both sides of the ball.

Of course, the overall depth along the defensive line has improved with the emergence of second-year nose tackle Brandon Williams and the recent play of rookie Timmy Jernigan, two players who figure to play major roles for the unit in the coming years. Their presence has taken pressure off Ngata, but they also force Newsome and the front office to carefully weigh how much they should pay the five-time Pro Bowl selection as he turns 31 in January.

“I think we have a little bit of depth there,” Pees said. “The other thing that goes along with that 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.”

Perhaps that competition has been good for Ngata as he’s playing his best football since 2011, but the Ravens know it’s also making their offeseason decision more difficult as the year progresses.

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Forsett, Ngata, Yanda return to practice on Thursday

Posted on 30 October 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After seven players missed Wednesday’s practice as the Ravens prepare to play the arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers, three starters returned to the field a day later.

Running back Justin Forsett (ankle), right guard Marshal Yanda (knee), and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (shin) were all present and working after sitting out Wednesday’s workout. Cornerback Lardarius Webb (non-injury) was also practicing after receiving a veteran day off.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs (neck), wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring), and cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot) remained sidelined. Tight end Owen Daniels (knee) was not present during the portion of practice open to media after working on a limited basis Wednesday.

It remains to be seen whether the Ravens were simply resting Daniels or his knee didn’t respond as favorably as they’d hoped to him practicing so soon after last week’s cleanup procedure.

Wide receiver Steve Smith and linebacker Daryl Smith were not present during the viewing portion of practice, but they were not listed on Thursday’s injury report.

Defensive end Chris Canty (wrist surgery) was practicing once again after being listed as a full participant on Wednesday’s injury report. It appears the veteran will have a good chance of returning to action against Pittsburgh if his conditioning is up to par after a four-game absence due to an infection in his wrist.

For the Steelers, cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) was a limited participant for the second straight day, leaving open the possibility of him playing for the first time since Week 3.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), TE Owen Daniels (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (foot), LB Terrell Suggs (neck)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Justin Forsett (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE Chris Canty (wrist), DT Haloti Ngata (shin), , CB Lardarius Webb (non-injury)

PITTSBURGH
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Brett Keisel (non-injury), TE Heath Miller (non-injury), S Troy Polamalu (non-injury), S Ross Ventrone (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: S Michael Mitchell (non-injury), CB Ike Taylor (forearm)
FULL PARTICIPATION: T Marcus Gilbert (concussion), DT Steve McLendon (shoulder), LB Ryan Shazier (knee), TE Matt Spaeth (hamstring), S Shamarko Thomas (hamstring)

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Ravens lose long snapper Cox for rest of season

Posted on 19 October 2014 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — One of the few disappointments for the Ravens in the 29-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons was the season-ending injury to long snapper Morgan Cox.

The fifth-year snapper suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win. Cox previously tore the ACL in his left knee in a game against the Cleveland Browns late in his rookie season in 2010.

The Ravens will sign another long snapper this week with Cox expected to be placed on season-ending injured reserve as early as Monday.

Cox’s absence partially led to the Ravens going for it on fourth-and-9 from the Atlanta 39 with 1:54 remaining in the game since special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg was without his long snapper for the punt team. Quarterback Joe Flacco instead threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith to make it a 29-7 lead over Atlanta.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who has served as the emergency field goal snapper in past seasons, was used to snap the extra point to holder Sam Koch. Head coach John Harbaugh smiled after the game when asked if Ngata would be used as the snapper moving forward, admitting he initially planned to go for the two-point conversion before Rosburg convinced him to let the Pro Bowl defensive lineman have a shot.

“Jerry was like, ‘Let [Haloti] do it. Let’s get the rep out here,'” Harbaugh said. “And he was exactly right, and he did a great job with it.”

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Mosley beginning to make game-changing impact for Ravens defense

Posted on 06 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The highlights were few and far between for the Ravens in Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley was seemingly all over the field.

Whether he was getting lower than lead blocker Jake Doyle to blow up a fourth-and-1 run by Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw on the opening drive of the game or maneuvering through blockers to minimize the damage on several short passes, there was a certain familiarity in watching the 2014 first-round pick make plays everywhere at Lucas Oil Stadium. It was almost — almost —  reminiscent of a certain inside linebacker who famously did it better than anyone for the vaunted Baltimore defense.

Mosley has a long way to go to routinely even be mentioned in the same breath as future Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, but the sheer fact that many fans and media alike watching Sunday’s game made the comparisons spoke to how well he played in Sunday’s defeat. Finishing the game with 14 tackles, an interception, a quarterback hit, and a pass breakup, Mosley at least looked the part of the rookie version of Lewis in leading the defense in tackles and making several impressive plays throughout the afternoon.

“He had three screens out there where he made the tackles pretty much single-handedly,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “The posse was coming, but he was the guy there and weaved through blockers and made tackles. He tipped passes. He had [quarterback hits]. C.J. is playing really, really well.”

Mosley’s feel for the game has been praised from the moment the Ravens selected him with the 17th overall pick of May’s draft, but his game speed only gets better each week as he leads the team in tackles through the first five games of his NFL career. No, the University of Alabama product is not a finished product as he was beaten in coverage by tight end Dwayne Allen for a 6-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but Mosley has quickly justified why general manager Ozzie Newsome elected to draft another inside linebacker with an early-round pick after taking Arthur Brown in the second round a year ago.

For a defense in transition and in need of game-changing youth with five key members of the front seven over the age of 30, Mosley appeared to be playing at a faster speed that everyone else on the field attempting to slow the Indianapolis offense.

“It’s all about knowing what you have to do, doing your job, and watching film,” Mosley said. “When you know what you’re doing, you can play fast like that.”

The Baltimore defense is still finding its way this season, trying to get more from its aging pass rush while also dealing with health issues and deficiencies in the secondary. Investing a plethora of high draft picks on the defensive side of the ball in recent years, the Ravens have seen mixed results with only Jimmy Smith emerging as a consistent game-changing player to this point.

It appears that Mosley is on his way to joining the top cornerback in that category, which is good news with perennial Pro Bowl players Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata nearing the end of their run as standout players. Coaches and teammates view Mosley as the kind of player who will never be satisfied with reaching a certain level of play, always expecting more from himself.

It’s a mindset that sounds awfully familiar as well.

“He’s not a guy that’s going to sit there and say, ‘OK, I had a couple good games, and I’ve arrived,'” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to want to stack that success and build a body of work up behind him. And that’s probably why he’s as good as he is right now. That’s how he looks at it.”

Having already impressed veteran teammates by cracking the top of the depth chart next to fellow inside linebacker Daryl Smith early in training camp, Mosley has been everything the Ravens expected as a three-down player only getting better as he gains more experience.

The Ravens’ overall play in Indianapolis was forgettable as they dropped their first road game of the season, but it was a standout performance by the rookie that will be remembered. And his showing against the Colts had teammates feeling the urgency to step up their own game to match him.

“I think he played phenomenal. We’ve all got to catch up to him,” Suggs said after Sunday’s loss. “He was out there making a lot of plays. We knew the kid was special coming in, and that’s why we brought him in and Ozzie drafted him. He had a hell of a day [Sunday].”

 

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