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Who Steps Up At Injury-Riddled Defensive End?


Defensive end looked like one of the deepest positions on the Ravens' roster two weeks ago.

But things change quickly in the NFL.

The Ravens lost rookie Brent Urban to a torn anterior cruciate ligament and Kapron Lewis-Moore to an Achilles injury, and suddenly the Ravens have to scramble to fill the void. Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees has three more preseason games to determine a rotation on the defensive front, and he indicated Wednesday he will experiment with a variety of options. 

"We'll try to move as few [players] as we can. At the same time, [comma] we can't just sit here and say everything is going to be OK," Pees said. "We have to experiment with some of those guys."

Despite the injuries, the starting defensive end hasn't changed for the Ravens. Veteran Chris Canty entered training camp as the incumbent, and he's still the leader of the pack. The injuries hurt the group's depth, as Lewis-Moore and Urban were both expected to be rotational players.

"It's really tough when you lose two guys at the same position, especially two young guys that we thought had a lot of promise," Pees said. "It was spot that at one time we thought was one of the deepest spots we had on the chart, and now it becomes a little less."

A pair of candidates to fill in are rookie Timmy Jernigan and third-year defender DeAngelo Tyson. Jernigan, a second-round pick, would have to move over from the interior of the defensive line, which he is capable of doing. He has been impressive during training camp and showed during his college career at Florida State that he can play multiple positions up front.

"I feel like that was one of my greatest assets during the draft process,"Jernigan said. "Whatever we do on the defensive line, I can do it."

Tyson has also moved around the defensive front during his first two years in Baltimore, but was already expected to play some defensive end this year. The Ravens have given him reps at every position along the line, and he stressed that he's willing to go play whatever the Ravens need.

"I like being on the field, so whether that's at the five-technique, three-technique or nose tackle, I just want to help the defense," Tyson said.

Another option is moving outside linebacker Pernell McPhee back to defensive end, where he played the first two years of his NFL career. McPhee has experience at end, but Pees stressed that the Ravens won't force him to move back to that spot.

"I really like him as an outside linebacker. I like him as an inside pass rusher," Pees said. "A lot of it will depend on the type of game we're going to face."

McPhee, 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds, is slightly undersized compared to other defensive ends. Canty, Tyson and Jernigan all weigh at least 300 pounds, making them more ideal matchups for offensive tackles, especially in the running game.

McPhee has loads of potential as a pass rusher, so the Ravens could use him at defensive end when facing a team that tends to throw the ball more.

"The saying we have around here at the Ravens that the more you can do the better," McPhee said. "I might be the swing man this year. I might play the five technique and rush [linebacker]. I play everything on the front seven."

Outside of McPhee, Jernigan and Tyson, the Ravens could look to some of their undrafted linemen to fill out the depth chart. Veteran lineman Terrence Cody (hip) could provide a much-needed addition once he's activated from the physically unable to perform list after offseason hip surgery.

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