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Ngata #1

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This is a good article on Ngata who is USATodays #1 DT...


Take the case of Baltimore Ravens star Haloti Ngata, selected by USA TODAY's NFL staff as the game's best at the position.


Ngata (6-4, 350) has something else that brings his size to life — though he says he's gotten sleeker and fitter during the NFL lockout.


"He's a 345-pound block of granite, so hard to move," Razzano says. "But for a guy his size, he's such a good athlete. He's got quick feet. And that's what separates the big guys. The best ones are the guys who can move."


Ngata edged out emerging Detroit Lions standout Ndamukong Suh for the top spot, while Vince Wilfork (New England Patriots), Darnell Dockett (Arizona Cardinals) and B.J. Raji (Green Bay Packers) rounded out the top five.


Of the top 10, five are nose tackles from 3-4 defenses — Wilfork, Raji, Jay Ratliff (Dallas Cowboys), Kyle Williams (Buffalo Bills) and Casey Hampton (6-1, 325), who anchors the front for the Pittsburgh Steelers' No. 1-ranked run defense.


The Ravens, who drafted Ngata with the 12th pick in 2006, officially deploy their dancing bear as a left defensive tackle. Yet Ngata, who played rugby at Highland High School in Salt Lake City, is so skilled and athletic that the Ravens align him in a variety of spots to create headaches for opposing offenses.


In addition to lining up over guards in the Ravens' 3-4 hybrid scheme, Ngata sometimes lines up over the center like a nose tackle. He has also been stationed so wide on occasion, like an end, that he shadows the tight end. He even has dropped into coverage on zone blitzes.


And his versatility merely accentuates his dominance.


It's no wonder Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson contends, "You couldn't build a more perfect football player."


In 2010, Ngata was selected as a Pro Bowl starter for the second consecutive season after leading Ravens defensive linemen with 63 tackles and posting a career-high 5½ sacks. He had five pass breakups, too, and was a rock on the NFL's fifth-ranked run defense, freeing up lanes for middle linebacker Ray Lewis and others to pursue ballcarriers.


Since Ngata arrived from the University of Oregon, the Ravens have allowed an NFL-low 31 rushing touchdowns and the third-fewest rushing yards a game (84.7) in the league. He was key to their streak of 39 games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, and no D-tackle in the NFL has as many as his three interceptions since he joined the league.


"This is the guy that I wouldn't want to be facing if the game is on the line," declares Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, who also rates Ngata as the game's best defensive tackle.


"I think Haloti can play free safety; he's got that kind of athletic ability. And when he lines up, he'll play off the ball and in a flex position. He will bring all 340 pounds to you. He's an absolute monster."


That much seemed evident during a six-day span in December, when Ngata came up with clutch plays to seal wins vs. the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints. His pressure up the middle on Texans quarterback Matt Schaub forced an interception in overtime that Josh Wilson returned 12 yards for a touchdown. The next week, he deflected a fourth-quarter pass by Drew Brees that was intercepted by Cory Redding for the game-clinching turnover vs. the Saints.


"I watch a lot of film … and he's a hell of a player," Wilfork marvels. "I love the way they play him. I do recognize talent and greatness, and Ngata has a lot of it."


Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome remembers what two former college teammates — quarterback Kellen Clemens and wideout Demetrius Williams— professed about Ngata.


"They said the only way they were able to have practice at Oregon," Newsome says, "was to take Ngata off the field. It was the only way the offense could work on their plays."


Ngata, 27, whose heritage links to the island of Tonga, has grown into the prototype for his position. Newsome is impressed that Ngata has remained a consistent force despite the attention he receives week after week when opponents reset their blocking schemes to account for him. And as other top defensive tackles can attest, those blocking assignments more often than not equate to at least two linemen occupying Ngata.


"It's been pretty much the same thing for a while now," Ngata said during the Ravens' playoff run in January. "People have been double-teaming me more. I got more of it last year, and it's been kind of the same this year. It's just part of the game, and I love it, opening up other guys to make plays."


Double teams are a nuisance, but they also are the ultimate compliment. And they won't cease anytime soon because Ngata is getting better and just entering his prime.


"The thing you see everywhere in the NFL, the better guys get, sometimes they don't keep reaching," Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison told The Baltimore Sun. "He just keeps reaching to be better and better. That's a real credit to him."


Newsome, whose track record of first-round successes includes the likes of Lewis and all-pro safety Ed Reed, is bullish on Ngata's growth as a pass rusher. Don't be fooled by numbers (Ngata has 12 career sacks). Sometimes the impact comes with mere pressure — as was the case vs. the Texans and Saints.


That's why Ngata, unlike many defensive tackles who head to the bench on passing downs, rarely leaves the field.


"He's a better pass rusher than most defensive tackles," Newsome says. "You've had some really remarkable pass rushers from that position over the years — guys like Warren Sapp and John Randle— who had such outstanding quickness. But I don't know if you've had a 340-pound guy bringing it like he does."




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