One of the best defensive tackles over the past decade, Ngata hasn't made the same game-changing plays in his first season as the team's nose tackle. He has 21 tackles this season, which ranks ninth on the Ravens and 39th among NFL defensive linemen. Ngata has 1.5 sacks but no forced fumbles, fumble recoveries or batted passes.
"Every single play you’re going to get doubled-teamed as a nose guard, but Haloti [Ngata] can handle it, and he’s playing well," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "And I think Haloti can be even more dominant. I would consider him a dominant player. I want him to be a game-wrecker in there every single play. You look at Haloti, and you say, ‘Hey man, wreck the game.’ And that’s what he wants to do, too.”
The Ravens are paying Ngata to be a dominant player. While quarterback Joe Flacco has taken criticism for his big contract, few point out that Ngata is making $4 million in base salary this season, the third-highest on the team. Next season, Ngata will top the Ravens in salary at $8.5 million.
Much of the Ravens' success, especially in run defense, can be attributed to Ngata's play. In his first six seasons in the NFL (2006-11), the Ravens ranked in the top 5 in stopping the run. The past two seasons, when Ngata hasn't been as dominant, the Ravens finished No. 20 in run defense in 2012, and rank No. 13 in stopping the run this year.
In 2011, Ngata made 64 tackles (seventh among defensive lineman) with five sacks, two forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Last season, his tackle total dropped to 51 (20th among defensive lineman) because he was limited by shoulder and knee injuries.
So why hasn't Ngata been a "game-wrecker" this season?
"At times, he has," Harbaugh said. "People give him a lot of attention. Like [we were just] saying, he’s going to get double-teamed, [and] they’ll hang on those blocks for a long time. Maybe they’re a little later getting up on a ‘backer than they would against other nose guards. So, he gets a lot of respect in there, too.”