The Ravens' defensive line is an interesting group this year.
Anchoring the front is a man who is being talked about as one of the top players, regardless of position in the NFL. Around him, GM Ozzie Newsome has mixed proven veterans with some fresh, young talent, which has many media pundits raving about what this group can do this season.
Here are the guys who will be battling for roster spots along the defensive line throughout training camp:
NT Haloti Ngata, 6-4, 350 pounds, 5th NFL season
Where he stands: Oh, as one of the most dominant players in the league, that's all. Ngata finally made his first Pro Bowl last year despite missing two games with an ankle injury and posting the lowest tackle numbers of his career. The reason for Ngata's decreased statistics? He consistently draws double-teams, freeing up the linebackers to get a clean shot on the quarterback or ball carrier. Ngata has incredible agility for a guy his size and also possesses the strength to toss offensive linemen around. He's a rare breed.
What needs to be done: Ngata has nothing to prove in training camp, and the Ravens would hate it if he got hurt, so the big guy needs to take care of himself. When healthy, he's a game-changer and a guy opposing teams have to plan around.
DE/ DT Cory Redding, 6-4, 292 pounds, 8th NFL season
Where he stands: Redding was a nice free agent addition, and not just because he's a solid cornhole player. He can play both outside and inside, which gives the Ravens good flexibility when it comes to rotating personnel. Redding has shown he can get to the passer (he had eight sacks with the Lions in 2006) and can be a solid run-stuffer as well.
What needs to be done: Keep working on his pass rushing skills (Redding has just six total sacks in the three years since that 2006 campaign) and continue to get settled into Greg Mattison's defense. Mattison isn't as radical as former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan with his different looks, but it might still take some time for Redding (or any new player to the defense, for that matter) to feel comfortable in the Ravens' system.
DT Kelly Gregg, 6-0, 320 pounds, 11th NFL season
Where he stands: Gregg came back strong last season after missing all of 2008 with a knee injury, posting 64 total tackles and three sacks. Now entering his 11th NFL season at 33-years-old, Gregg isn't quite the inside force that he was from 2002-2007, but he still can cause problems in the backfield and be a solid run-stuffer. He will likely share reps with rookie Terrence Cody this year, but it remains to be seen who will get the bulk of the playing time.
What needs to be done: Stay healthy and continue to be the feisty player that Ravens fans have grown to love. If you toss out that lost 2008 season, Gregg has only missed two games since 2002. But while Gregg's knee is fully healed after having microfracture surgery, you never know if/when it will become an issue again. The Ravens hope that Gregg still has a couple more healthy years in him.
DE Trevor Pryce, 6-5, 290 pounds, 14th NFL season
Where he stands: Pryce lost his starting job to Dwan Edwards mid-way through the 2009 season, but he still rotated in at defensive end and finished the year with a team-leading 6.5 sacks. The soon-to-be 35-year-old still has some gas left in the tank as a pass rusher, but he's not the three-down guy that he was for most of his career.
What needs to be done: The Ravens have dedicated a lot of time this offseason to improving their pass rush, and Pryce will be counted on to keep pressuring the QB this season, especially on third downs. He needs to get in his work in camp while making sure he is in good shape health-wise when the season starts.
DT Terrence Cody, 6-4, 360 pounds, Rookie
Where he stands: Cody is one of the heftiest prospects to ever put on a Ravens jersey. He also is a defensive tackle with a world of promise. Cody was a beast in his two seasons at Alabama, posting 52 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and two blocked field goals. He is a prototypical run-stuffer and has the ability to take on multiple blockers. The idea of having him line up next to Ngata will give offensive coordinators nightmares, and could make it tough for the Ravens coaches to keep him off the field.
What needs to be done: Keep his weight in check (which, by all accounts, he did throughout offseason workouts) and continue to dominate up the middle. If he could improve his pass rush skills, that would be an added bonus. It will be interesting to see if/when he gets bumped ahead of Gregg on the depth chart.
DT Brandon McKinney, 6-2, 350 pounds, 5th NFL season
Where he stands: McKinney saw action in seven games last year, making three tackles from scrimmage. He was placed on Injured Reserve in late-December with a back injury. The 27-year-old run-stuffer says he's healthy and is trying to cut some weight this year.
What needs to be done: If McKinney can follow through on his goal of losing a few pounds, it will be to his advantage. He could benefit from some added mobility. His experience at the NFL level (38 games played in four years) gives him an edge over Lamar Divens and Kelly Talavou.
NT Kelly Talavou, 6-2, 340 pounds, 3rd NFL season
Where he stands: Talavou was on the Ravens' roster the entire 2009 season, but was active for just three games all year. He spent 2008 on IR with a shoulder injury. When healthy, he's a stout lineman who also specializes in stopping the run.
What needs to be done: Make the most of his chances. The Ravens are strong on the interior of the defensive line this year, so reps will be hard to come by for everyone. Talavou needs to impress when given the opportunity if he wants to win a spot over some of the other tackles.
DT Lamar Divens, 6-3, 343 pounds, 3rd NFL season
Where he stands: Divens has seen more of Injured Reserve than he has a football field since coming into the league in 2008. After appearing in three games for the Ravens that season, he was placed on IR with a shoulder injury and then missed the entire 2009 season with a hip injury. He is battling for a reserve spot behind Gregg and Cody.
What needs to be done: There's an old football saying: "You can't make the club in the tub". That would clearly apply to Divens. He needs to stay healthy and prove that he can be an effective run stopper.
DE/OLB Paul Kruger, 6-4, 268 pounds, 2nd NFL season
Where he stands: Last year's second-round pick played in nine games (with one start) as an outside linebacker in 2009, but the Ravens asked him to bulk up and make a move to defensive end this year. Kruger is in the process of adding weight, but he says he needs to make sure that he retains his mobility and quick feet. This will be a big season for the Utah product, who needs to prove he can contribute on gamedays.
What needs to be done: Refine his pass rushing technique and improve his work on special teams. Kruger had a rough time transitioning to the pro level last season because his natural position (Terrell Suggs' rush-linebacker spot) was occupied, but he needs to make some adjustments and focus on special teams throughout camp.
DT/DE Arthur Jones, 6-3, 305 pounds, Rookie
Where he stands: Jones is an intriguing prospect. He was projected as a first-rounder after his junior year at Syracuse, but opted to return to college. Jones then suffered multiple injuries, causing him to fall to the Ravens in the fifth round. He's athletic, plays with great leverage, and can play both inside and outside, which will help his chances at a roster spot.
What needs to be done: Show off his versatility and flash the athleticism that had scouts so high on him a year ago. Jones could be a nice steal for the Ravens if he can stay on the field.