Ravens ready to accept challenge of replacing Haloti Ngata


Brandon Williams and Haloti Ngata are no longer teammates, but they did cross paths this offseason. Williams worked out with (as well as scouted out) Ngata after the five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman was traded to the Detroit Lions.

"[I was] just seeing what he was doing and putting that in the repertoire and move forward with that," Williams said.

Even though Ngata is gone, the shadow of the 340-pound dominating defender hangs over a young Ravens defensive line. How the likes of Williams and Timmy Jernigan, both of whom were in high school when Ngata began playing in the NFL, fill that void will be one of the biggest storylines heading into the 2015 season.

The presence of Ngata and his track record caused teams to think twice about running against the Ravens. Dating back to Ngata's first season in 2006, Baltimore has allowed the NFL's fewest rushing touchdowns (71) and second fewest rushing yards (92.5 per game). More than just a run-stopper, Ngata is the only defensive tackle to record at least 175 tackles, 10 sacks and 15 passes defensed from 2011 to 2014.

So, it's more than replacing a player. It's about replacing someone who became the symbol of the Ravens' run defense since Ray Lewis retired.

Williams, who started alongside Ngata last season, was asked what it meant when the Ravens sent Ngata to the Lions for fourth- and fifth-round picks on March 10.

"It tells me I just have to step up, [and] we have to do more," Williams said. "I accept the challenge, willingly, to get out there and do everything I have to do to be my best player, be my best self. And that goes for everybody else on the defensive line. We don’t need anybody to be Haloti. We just need everybody to be their best selves, and we’ll be fine.”

The Ravens are expected to move Jernigan into Ngata's spot after he filled in for four games last December, when Ngata served his four-game suspension. That means the Ravens are going from a five-time All-Pro to a player with four career starts.

"It’s definitely something I’ve been waiting for for a long time,” Jernigan told the team's website last week. “I’ve known I’m more than capable of doing the job. Now it’s just a point of proving it. Last year, I showed flashes. You’ve got to be able to do it consistently day in and day out. It’s huge shoes to fill.”