Haloti Ngata anchored Baltimore's defensive front for the last nine years.
When the franchise dealt him to Detroit this offseason to free up salary-cap space, the Ravens knew they'd have to turn to a pair of young defenders to fill the void in the middle of the defense.
Defensive tackles Timmy Jernigan and Brandon Williams are the next men up for Baltimore's defense, and Head Coach John Harbaugh expressed confidence in his young defenders.
"Timmy Jernigan is a good, young player," Harbaugh said Tuesday at the annual league meetings in Phoenix. "I have no doubts that he's going to give it his best shot and he's going to do well – the same thing with Brandon Williams. He's proven himself."
Jernigan, 22, was a second-round pick last year who showed glimpses of his potential. He saw action in 12 games and finished the season with 23 tackles and four sacks. Jernigan started in Ngata's place when he was suspended for the final four games of the regular season, and the Ravens went 3-1 during that stretch.
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Jernigan dealt with a knee injury during his rookie year and didn't have to take on a full-game workload in terms of his snap counts, but the Ravens like what they've seen from him at this point.
"Obviously he has a lot of work to do. He acknowledges that, which is what I love about him," Harbaugh said.
Williams, 26, is heading into his third NFL season. He took on the starting nose tackle role last year next to Ngata, and he established himself as a valuable anchor in the middle of the defense.
"I think Brandon Williams is probably as good a nose tackle as there is in the league right now," General Manager Ozzie Newsome said after the season.
In addition to Jernigan and Williams replacing Ngata, Harbaugh also indicated the Ravens may bring in some additional defensive linemen in free agency or the draft. The Ravens have already re-signed free-agent defensive linemen Lawrence Guy and Christo Bilukidi, and the young group gives the Ravens a talented core going into next season.
"We have to create depth behind those guys, which we've done a good job of by signing the guys that we've signed in the offseason, who we know and have been with us," Harbaugh said. "There's no reason we can't be a great defense and a great defensive front next year."