In order for the Baltimore Ravens to win tonight against the Denver Broncos, every player on their team must be playing at his very best. The defensive line will be vital to shut down the Bronco’s tripled headed monster of Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, and Knowshon Moreno, as well as applying pressure on Peyton Manning against a very good offensive line
With starting center Dan Koppen out for tonight, the only weakness of the Broncos offense may be attacking the inside of their offensive line.
Revamping the defensive line was a point of emphasis this offseason for the Ravens, which they did by letting Ma’ake Kemoeatu walk, signing Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, and drafting Brandon Williams. The line has looked better this preseason, but concerns are starting to rise for tonight.
Arthur Jones, a key player in the Ravens postseason run last year who also finished the season with 4.5 sacks in the final 6 games, has been ruled out due to a mysterious illness. Jones was expected to start next to Chris Canty and Haloti Ngata tonight, and will most likely be replaced in the line up with Marcus Spears. Spears, however, is on the wrong side of 30 and has had 2 sacks in the last three years, known as more of a run stuffing lineman.
To make matters worse, the newest defensive lineman Brandon Williams is listed as doubtful with a toe injury after missing practice all this week. Williams, a 6’1" 335 nose tackle drafted in the third round, was expected to be an upgrade of the notoriously lazy and underperforming Terrance Cody. Now, with Williams out, the Ravens will have to turn to Cody again as a run stuffer even after his poor 2012 season and offseason hip surgery.
Both of these losses can be salvaged with a healthy Haloti Ngata, the Ravens All-Pro defensive tackle. Ngata has dealt with injuries the past two seasons, and decided to avoid surgery this past offseason on a knee injury that occurred during the Superbowl. The recovery took so long, Ngata was not completely healthy when camp began, and there have been no updates since.
While Pernell McPhee is listed as probable for the game, it is still concerning that the pass rushing defensive end/ outside linebacker is dealing with a knee injury and may not be at the top of his game.
Ideally, the Ravens would take advantage of Dan Koppen’s injury, but with all of their defensive line injuries, the sides may be even.