Ravens Re-Building Run Defense

The first priority for the Ravens defense has, and likely always will be, stopping the run.

"It's not even four, three or two yards. We hate when they even gain one yard," nose tackle Terrence Cody said.

The Ravens have ranked in the NFL's top 5 in rushing yards allowed per game the past six years. They were second behind San Francisco last season, allowing just 92.6 rushing yards per contest.

Whether Baltimore can continue that trend will likely depend on how well it can re-build its front seven after losing three key run-stuffing veterans.

Outside linebacker Jarret Johnson and defensive end Cory Redding departed via free agency and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is out for an indefinite amount of time. That means 169 tackles from last year's lineup are gone.

"You never like to lose guys, but the nature of this business is guys are going to come and guys are going to go," Defensive Line Coach Clarence Brooks said.

"It's not a concern; you just kind of have to look at what you have and say, 'OK, let's move on. Where do we go from here? How are we going to do this?' Luckily enough, we have some good, young bodies around here that we feel will come along well."

As far as new potential starters, the Ravens will turn to outside linebackers Paul Kruger, Albert McClellan and top draft pick Courtney Upshaw. On Brooks' defensive line, they will rely on defensive ends Pernell McPhee and Arthur Jones, who are entering their second and third years, respectively.

Behind them is a collection of almost all youngsters: second-year defensive tackle Bryan Hall, seventh-round pick DeAngelo Tyson and rookie free agents Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, Nicholas Jean-Baptiste and Terrence Moore.

The team had veteran Ryan McBean, but he suffered a broken ankle in the first preseason game. Brooks said it's a tough loss because McBean "was on his way to doing some good things."

Outside of Ngata, the only lineman with at least four years of experience is free-agent addition Ma'ake Kemoeatu. Brooks said he adds a calming presence to the group similar to what Redding provided the past two years.

"I feel very, very good about we have, about the guys that we have," Brooks said.

He used the loss of Kemoeatu seven years ago to illustrate his point that players can be replaced.

"At the time we lost him, I threw my hands up, 'What are we going to do?'" he said. "Some good football players have left here, and good football players have come in. We just have to continue to develop them and put them out there and make sure they play like Ravens."

That development is something Ngata still sees happening around him. It's not a finished product yet, which is to be expected with nearly a month before the regular-season opener.

"I think we still have some work to do," Ngata said, particularly pointing to the edges of the defense.

"It's just getting those guys together and setting those fronts and getting some camaraderie together out there on the field. I don't think we really play together well yet, just because it's so new and young. Once we get those things together, I think we'll be really good and up there again."

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