Ngata's shining play draws media spotlight

Raven's 52 tackles rank fourth in NFL at his position

December 09, 2007|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun reporter

The first sign that Haloti Ngata has arrived is that the media that cover the Ravens are seeking out the defensive tackle.

True to his nature, however, the 6-foot-4, 340-pound Ngata plays down the attention.

"I don't know about that," Ngata said of serving as the spokesman for the defensive line. "I thought they would usually go to Kelly Gregg. But I'm fine with it."

It's a role Ngata might have to accept if he continues his exceptional play. According to statistics compiled at NFL.com, the second-year player ranks fourth in tackles among NFL defensive tackles with 52, has collected two sacks and has forced a fumble.

Despite playing on a team that has lost six consecutive games, Ngata has contributed to a defense that ranks sixth in total yards allowed and third in rushing yards surrendered.

Ravens fans are offering his name for Pro Bowl consideration, and Ngata's performance did not escape the attention of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

"Ngata is a mountain of a guy but has good mobility," Belichick said last week before the Patriots played the Ravens. "If you double him or if you spend too much time blocking him, then you can't get up to the next level to get to [linebackers Ray] Lewis and [Bart] Scott. If you leave too quickly to get up to Lewis and Scott, then you leave him standing on the line of scrimmage. and it's hard to get by him."

Ravens defensive line coach Clarence Brooks thinks Ngata should make that postseason trip to the Pro Bowl in Hawaii, based on his play against San Diego Chargers guards Kris Dielman and Mike Goff (six tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage) and New England's Logan Mankins (seven tackles, a sack and three quarterback hurries).

"He's played against some good players, and he's becoming one of those guys that are tough to block," Brooks said. "For his size and what we ask him to do in our schemes and what he does for us, he's on his way. There aren't too many guys that are a heck of a lot better."

Brooks said Ngata's biggest area of improvement has been his ability to shed blocks and make tackles. Ngata proved capable last season of tying up blockers so that Lewis and Scott could make tackles, Brooks said, but the coaches stressed to Ngata the need to finish those plays himself.

"Watching film from last year, I've been trying to compare myself to Kelly with the way he's been shedding blocks and the things he's been doing," Ngata said. "So I just kind of looked at myself and looked at Kelly and tried to improve on the little things that I wasn't doing but that he was doing."

In the past seven games, Ngata has recorded 39 tackles (six for losses), two sacks and six hurries.

"He's really come around," said Gregg, who leads all defensive tackles with 58 tackles. "He's doing stuff this year that he'd show a couple times last year. But he's doing it on a consistent basis. He'll be in a lot of Pro Bowls."

As enticing as that prospect is, Ngata deftly sidestepped that topic.

"Luckily, I had a good offseason and worked out really hard, and everything just came together," he said. "There are some thing I've got to work on for me to feel like I actually am a Pro Bowler."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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