AFC North Positional Rankings: Defensive Line

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Dec 28, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback

Connor Shaw

(9) scrambles away from Baltimore Ravens defensive end Timmy Jernigan (97) during the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

3. Baltimore Ravens

DE: Timmy Jernigan

NT: Brandon Williams

DE: Chris Canty

The Ravens’ defensive line lost a huge player in Haloti Ngata after Baltimore traded its five-time Pro Bowl nose tackle to the Detroit Lions back in March. Despite this, the Ravens’ D-line has some promising players who could make a tremendous impact in the upcoming season.

Aug 23, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback

Kirk Cousins

(8) is pressured by Baltimore Ravens tackle Timmy Jernigan (97) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Timmy Jernigan, Baltimore’s second-round draft selection in 2013, is the best player on the Ravens’ line at just 22 years old. He recorded four sacks in 2014, despite missing four games and only recording three starts. Entering just his second season in the NFL, Jernigan will be a player to watch; he is surprisingly quick for a 300+ pound defensive end, capable of rushing the passer and stopping the run. And playing alongside great pass-rushers like Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs should only make Jernigan more dangerous.

At nose tackle, Brandon Williams steps in to replace Ngata. Baltimore’s desire to trade Ngata says a lot about how great the Ravens think Williams is. Sure, Williams has only recorded 1.5 sacks in two seasons, but his role in the Ravens’ defense doesn’t require him to rush the passer. Williams is an incredible run-stopper; and at 335 pounds, Williams is a force to be reckoned with on the defensive side of the ball. Williams forced two fumbles in 2014; it will be interesting to see if his forced fumbles came from luck or if Williams is also a master at stripping the ball from opposing players.

Standing at 6-7 and weighing in at 320 pounds, Chris Canty is a physical specimen. Like Williams, Canty isn’t much of a pass-rusher; however, he is an excellent run-stopper. But despite Canty’s size, he hasn’t been able to make much of an impact in his 10-year career. The Ravens’ defensive coordinator, Dean Pees, will certainly try to utilize Canty’s size in a way that will help the Ravens’ defensive line rush the passer more often. But with Elvis Dumervil and Terrell Suggs on the outside, the Ravens’ defensive line isn’t forced to rush the passer as frequently as other teams’ D-lines.

Baltimore’s defensive line, like Pittsburgh’s, has the potential to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. And despite the fact that Pittsburgh’s line is more effective in the pass-rushing game than Baltimore’s, Baltimore’s is ranked higher due to its ability to stop the run and the presence of pass-rushers in the linebacking corps.