Ravens started a trend on defensive line

OWINGS MILLS - The Baltimore Ravens' intention was merely to establish a sound foundation across their defensive front. Establishing a trend in a manner akin to the ambition of a fashion designer wasn't ever the goal. Yet, a few years removed from the Ravens' record-setting Super Bowl defense that featured gargantuan defensive tackles in Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa, the league's quest for wide bodies is still in vogue.

As far as sheer numbers, there have been 10 defensive tackles selected in the first round over the last two drafts and just seven ends, including six tackles last spring and four within the first 13 picks in 2001.

That's an indication not only of imitation, but also that colleges are steadily churning out massive, mobile interior linemen.

"The defensive linemen have always, over the course of the years that I've been involved in the draft, gone very quickly," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "When you look at defensive linemen, they can impact a team in the run game and in the pass. That's a three-down player.

"In the era of specialized football, to have someone who can be on the field for every down, that player is going to be very important to everybody who's in the draft process."

As owners of the 10th overall pick in this weekend's NFL draft, the Ravens might be up for a touch of déjà vu. Besides flashier scenarios involving trading up to get Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich or back a few spots for Cal's Kyle Boller, Baltimore could also simply stand pat with its first pick and acquire Penn State senior tackle Jimmy Kennedy. All 6-foot-4, 322 pounds of him.

Nicknamed "Grizzly Bear," Kennedy has actually slimmed down considerably after arriving on the Happy Valley campus five years ago at an excess of 400 pounds, immediately causing Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno to redshirt him.

Since then, Kennedy has dedicated himself to the weight room and has steadily improved his technique and quickness. Last season, he had 87 tackles, 16 for losses, 5 ½ sacks and batted down three passes.

 "He's a very good player and we would be very fortunate if he fell to our spot," Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said.

Kennedy visited the Ravens' training complex last week, and nothing would likely please Ravens defensive line coach Rex Ryan more than to obtain him. The Minnesota Vikings' seventh overall pick is another possible destination for Kennedy.

 "You know we play against some excellent running backs this year," said Ryan, listing a group that includes Ricky Williams, Shaun Alexander, Corey Dillon, Marshall Faulk, LaDainian Tomlinson and Fred Taylor. "I don't know if we need to draft someone specifically to help stop them. If they should tell me, I'm getting a first-round lineman, I sure wouldn't turn it down. This is a really deep group to choose from, too."

Like everyone else in the NFL, the Ravens are enamored of Kentucky defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson. He's three inches shorter than Kennedy, two pounds heavier and faster than Arizona State end Terrell Suggs (24 sacks) with a 4.84 time in the 40-yard dash.

Of course, Robertson is also slated to go fourth overall to the Chicago Bears. Behind Kennedy, the Ravens could consider a potential 3-4 end prospect in Oklahoma State's Kevin Williams, who's rising up draft boards, or athletic Georgia junior tackle Johnathan Sullivan.

The 10th pick might be a little high for Baltimore to draft either player in terms of obtaining maximum value. So, the Ravens could attempt to swap with several trading partners: Seattle Seahawks (No. 11), New York Jets (No. 13, No. 22), New England Patriots (No. 14, No. 19) or the New Orleans Saints (No. 17, No. 18).

It's possible that as many as six to eight defensive linemen could go in the first round, including these candidates: Miami end Jerome McDougle, Miami defensive tackle William Joseph, Ohio State tackle Kenny Peterson, Penn State end Michael Haynes and Texas A&M tackle Ty Warren.

"Kevin is a really athletic guy who needs to work on his pad level because he plays too high and is going to get bounced around too much, but he probably has more upside than most," Baltimore director of college scouting Eric DeCosta said. "Johnathan Sullivan is probably not as mature physically as some others, but is a guy who, five years from now, will be a very good player."

Complicating the Ravens' evaluations of defensive linemen a tad is last season's shift to the 3-4 as a primary defensive alignment. Baltimore scouts have to identify potential 3-4 ends, projections usually based on converting an oversized, active college tackle. McDougle, Haynes and Nebraska's Chris Kelsay are in that 4-3 end mold, which is based heavily on agility and pass rushing, not bulk and run-stopping.

 "A 4-3 defensive end is more of a traditional Mike McCrary type of up-the-field pass rusher, a little bit undersized and typically not as good against the run," DeCosta said. "A 3-4 end is almost like a tackle. They have to be stronger, stouter and don't have to be quite as good a pass rusher. That's why, for us, Terrell Suggs would project best as an outside linebacker."

Expect Baltimore to try to take advantage at some point during the first day and second day of the presence of so many quality tackles and ends. Since 1970, t

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