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John Harbaugh was about to say Terrence Cody is becoming a dominant defensive lineman when he stopped himself and pondered out loud.
“Is he becoming dominant in there?” the head coach asked. “He dominates in there quite a bit.”
Cody took over for longtime Raven Kelly Gregg as the starting nose tackle in his second season and the unit hasn’t missed a beat.
The Ravens’ run defense is ranked third in the NFL, allowing just 72.5 rushing yards per game.
That’s despite being matched up against some tough competition: Steelers’ Rashard Mendenhall, Titans’ Chris Johnson, Rams’ Steven Jackson and Jets’ Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson.
The 6-foot-4, 349-pound Cody, who shed his excess rookie weight and is much more toned despite the offseason lockout, has five tackles in four games.
“He is big, he is athletic, he is moving so well, he stays square, he doesn’t get cut off, he doesn’t get reached and he makes plays,” Harbaugh said. “I know you put him in there with Haloti [Ngata], and I think our linebackers appreciate having those two guys in the middle.”
Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson said Cody is doing as good a job as Gregg did at keeping blockers off him, which is saying a lot considering Gregg was one of the league’s best.
Johnson has seen marked improvement in Cody from his rookie season, when the second-round draft pick played in 13 games and made 13 tackles.
The Ravens’ veteran said Cody was “the epitome of a rookie,” talking about his college (Alabama) all the time and still catching up physically and mentally.
After more than a year of work with revered Defensive Line Coach Clarence Brooks, Cody has learned the intricacies of playing nose tackle, from leverage, to looking around blockers to see which way to lean and which way to anticipate blocks.
“Everybody thinks you just take a big, strong guy and stick him at nose tackle and he’s going to be good. That’s just not true,” Johnson said.
“This year, man, he has worked so hard; he looks great. I think he’s playing at a weight that’s perfect for what he does. He’s moving around, [and] he understands the scheme of how to play run defense. … He is light years better than he was last year.”