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OTA Position Battles: Defensive Line

A huge strength on last year's team, the Defensive Line must overcome the loss of Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata. The position has received an influx of young talent the past 3 years, but can they overcome inexperience?

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The 2014 defensive line was a deep group, albeit shallower than expected due to injuries and Ngata's suspension. With the losses of Kapron Lewis-Moore and Brent Urban in camp, the in-season injuries to Chris Canty and Tim Jernigan, and the 4 game suspension to Haloti Ngata, this group had much to overcome. But the front office picked up depth players like Lawrence Guy and Christian Bilukidi, who combined with DeAngelo Tyson to play 509 snaps.

This year, despite the loss of Ngata, those 3 will have stiff competition from draft pick Carl Davis, injury returnee's KLM and Urban, returning stalwarts Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan, plus Chris Canty who was brought back as the veteran presence once Ngata was traded to Detroit.

But will they be able to make up for the loss of star Haloti Ngata?

Do not get me wrong, Ngata was a stud last year before his suspension. For 2015 though, he was a victim of the 80/20 rule, and his increasing age. However, Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens GM, is known to love being deep in the trenches. He has expended a 2012 7th rounder, 2013 3rd and 6th rounders, 2014 2nd and 4th rounders, and a 2015 3rd rounder all to bolster the position. Both Timmy Jernigan and Carl Davis were considered mid or late 1st round talents who slipped to the Ravens. So yes, the talent is there, the question is how fast they can put it together.

The interesting thing about last years group is, that despite being a top run defense and having to use waiver wire additions in the rotation, the unit did not have a player on the field more than 51% of the snaps. Per Hensley, Ngata was on track for around 60% before his suspension. But the Ravens showed that despite having to rely on lesser players to fill out the rotation, they were still very good. The hope is that between Carl Davis and Timmy Jernigan, there is more than enough production to replace Ngata. Jernigan sure got off to a great start in the last 4 games of 2014.

So who is the starter?

Assuming Jernigan and Brandon Williams in the 1st 2 spots, I expect Chris Canty will remain the incumbent barring a great showing from one of the young guys. He has experience playing with the other starters, and although he is not much of a pass rush threat, he was, along with Jernigan, one of the top 10 run stoppers last year. With OTA's about to start, there is still room for a young player to make a great impression and show the coaching staff they deserve to start. The two main contenders would seem to be 2nd year Brent Urban and Rookie Carl Davis Urban, out of Virginia, was expected to give Canty a challenge for his starting spot in 2014 before his injury. And Davis is a versatile player who can play up and down the line. With a good showing he could earn a starting spot. Either way, he will likely play heavy snaps behind Brandon Williams, especially on passing downs.