On NFL Network, the Baltimore Ravens‘ Haloti Ngata hinted that he would be playing more nose tackle in 2013. The subject emerged because the Ravens added defensive ends Chris Canty and Marcus Spears this off-season, with Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee already on the roster. Being arguably the best defensive lineman in the league, Ngata is verastlie enough to be a dominant defensive tackle in a 4-3, nose tackle in a 3-4 or defensive end in a 3-4. Last year he split his time between all three positions.
Along with those new defensive ends and the addition of Elvis Dumervil, the Ravens’ best formation appears to be a 3-4 with Dumervil and Suggs at outside linebacker and Ngata at nose tackle.
With Andre Smith‘s status still unclear, it is impossible to analyze what that means for the edge of the Cincinnati Bengals‘ offensive line. However, Ngata’s move to a more prominent role as a 3-4 nose tackle could have devastating effects on the Bengals ability to contain him.
Ngata notched two sacks against the Bengals last season despite only playing in one game. The first of those sacks came out of a 3-4 look when Ngata was lined up as a nose tackle over right guard. Then rookie Kevin Zeitler was caught in a one-on-one battle with Ngata and he flew past him with his speed after knocking him off balance. Ngata was double-teamed on his second sack from a nose tackle position again, but this time he beat both Zeitler and Andre Smith for the sack. His two sacks resulted in a combined loss of 20 yards for the offense.
His combination of size and strength, with understated agility thrown into the mix, makes it almost impossible for offenses to contain Ngata in one-on-one situations. By moving him to nose tackle, it should conceivably make it easier for offenses to double down on him, but that is without considering the quality that is set to surround him at defensive end and outside linebacker.
Instead of doubling Ngata with a guard and center when he lines up as a nose tackle, teams will be forced to ask their center to contain him one-on-one. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns are built to stop Ngata, at least as much as any team can be, with Alex Mack and Maurkice Pouncey.
Pouncey and Mack may not be the best centers in the league, but they are considered elite in terms of sheer physical talent. That is vital when trying to counter Ngata.
The Bengals’ offensive line was one of the best in the league last season, but it’s weakest piece was undoubtedly at center. Kyle Cook missed part of the season through injury and wasn’t overly productive when he was on the field. Rookie Trevor Robinson came in when he was sidelined and outperformed all expectations, but his glaring weakness is his lack of physical tools and bulk. Robinson is a technician, which allows him to be more than effective at this level, but his ability to handle a nose tackle one-on-one appears bleak at best.
Having spent most of the off-season so far making small moves, the Bengals may consider reinforcing the center position if they can unearth an improved overall talent before the beginning of next season. They will definitely need it if Ngata has his way.