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2012 Players To Watch: Bernard Pollard

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2011 was Bernard Polllard's first year as a Raven but you could never tell by watching him play. Pollard fit right in on the hard hitting Baltimore defense and helped them to finish the season with the fourth highest ranked secondary in the NFL.

Pollard signed with the Ravens as part of a duo of hard nosed, big hitting players from Houston. Vonta Leach also came over from the Texans and fit right in in Charm City. between the two of them they helped the secondary and the offense get much more physical last season.

The Ravens have had the best safety in football roaming in the secondary for years in Ed Reed, but over the last few years Reed has been more of a purely ball hawking safety. Due to injury issues Reed is no longer the steamroller he once was. He is still capable of laying the wood if need be but many Ravens fans noticed more arm tackles out of Reed in 2011. You can hardly blame Reed however, the most important thing will always be his health and the longevity of his career.

This is where the addition of Pollard was so key. He can be the physical enforcer of the secondary that every team should have but few actually do. Receiver need to be scared when they go over the middle and Bernard Pollard can bring that fear. He is also very good as a pass rusher and can be used all over the field.

Although Pollard is known mostly for his bone crushing hits he also excelled in pass coverage in 2011 for Baltimore. It was widely rumored that his coverage skills were suspect throughout his career in Houston and that is why the team did not resign him. However Bernard showed no such lack of skills as a Raven. He even had a key pass break up for a Jimmy Smith interception, in the end zone of the AFC Championship game in New England. On that play Pollard showed off his range and ball skills, two things he is not really known for but have been improving steadily.

This will be Bernard Pollard's first full off season in Baltimore and it can only help his game grow as he and the other defensive backs continue to grow chemistry. He and Reed are the savvy veterans of a much improved Ravens secondary that should continue to grow this year. It will be up to the rest of the secondary to feed off of the knowledge that these two bring to the table. I expect a big year for Pollard in 2012.