Haloti Ngata is the centerpiece of the Ravens defense.
The veteran defensive lineman has been to four straight Pro Bowls and is widely considered one of the most dominant defenders in the NFL.
But as Ngata looks at his play through the first half of the Ravens' season, he wants to see increased production from himself.
"I feel like I can do more," he said. "Just because we're losing, I think a lot of guys start looking at themselves asking, 'What can I do?'"
Ngata's eighth season in Baltimore has been relatively quiet. At times* *he has been a force in the middle of the defense, but at other times opponents have neutralized him and been able to run on the Ravens.
Ngata routinely takes on double teams up front, and has 26 tackles and 1.5 sacks this year.
"Every single play you're going to get doubled-teamed as a nose guard, but Haloti can handle it, and he's playing well," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "And I think Haloti can be even more dominant. I would consider him a dominant player.
"I want him to be a game-wrecker in there every single play."
Ngata has shown flashes of that game-wrecking ability, but he has not been able to consistently disrupt plays in the backfield the way he has in previous seasons.
According to the statistical analysis website Pro Football Focus, Ngata ranks as the 26th best defensive tackle/nose tackle in the NFL this season. Ngata ranked 14th in the same category in 2011 and fourth in 2010. Last year Ngata played more defensive end, and he ranked as the NFL's 11th best defensive end, according to PFF.
Ngata is one of the Ravens' leaders and highest-paid players (reportedly carries an $11.5 million cap hit), and he has to balance the responsibility of being one of the team's best players, while also simply playing his role within the defense.
"That can also be a trap, because you don't want to do too much to where you're doing two jobs instead of trying to do your own job," Ngata said. "I just try to be more dominant in my position instead of trying to do too much."
This offseason the Ravens decided to build around Ngata on their front. They signed veterans Chris Canty and Marcus Spears (who has since been released), and also drafted Brandon Williams in the third round. The additions allowed Ngata to play more inside at nose tackle than he has done in recent years, where he has admittedly felt more comfortable.
The Ravens have also used a steady rotation of defensive linemen this season to help keep Ngata fresh and avoid the injuries that have plagued him in the past. He has dealt with an elbow injury this season, but has not missed any games.
"It's been good so far," Ngata said. "I feel better in the fourth quarter than I did last year, just because playing end I think tires me out more than being inside. So, I definitely feel stronger in the fourth quarter."
As an interior defensive lineman, Ngata does not get much glory in the trenches. Ngata has never been a player to generate impressive numbers or high sack totals – his career high is 5.5 sacks in a season – and his role is often to occupy blockers and free up linebackers to make tackles.
That role fits Ngata's soft spoken demeanor, but he also understands that the Ravens likely need a big second half from him to get their season back on track.
"I don't like all of the attention, but if I have to be [in the spotlight], then I will be," he said. "Being a nose guard, I love playing football and whatever they need me to do to try to win games, that's what I'll do."