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Coaches: Lions' Ngata still dominant, 'virtually unblockable'

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Haloti Ngata

Phoenix — Haloti Ngata spent much of his first nine NFL seasons wreaking havoc in the AFC North.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Cincinnati's scouting department had to consider the need to block Ngata when evaluating players.

"He's been such a dominant inside player," Lewis said. "You can't go through the personnel part of things of adding an offensive interior guy that doesn't have the core strength to block Haloti Ngata."

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin described Ngata as "a uniquely conditioned guy for an enormous man," and even though Ngata was a game plan wrecker, the coach will miss the challenge of playing against him.

"He's a spectacular player whose resume speaks for itself," Tomlin said. "I'm a big fan of Haloti, and I expect him to continue to do the things that he's been doing over the time he's been in the league and that's to be a big-time disruptor."

During a breakfast with AFC head coaches Tuesday at NFL annual meetings, multiple coaches heaped praise on Ngata, a five-time Pro Bowler the Lions acquired in a trade from the Ravens two weeks ago.

In Ngata's nine seasons in Baltimore, the Ravens made the playoffs seven times, won one Super Bowl and had just one losing season. With Ngata, the Ravens ranked second cumulatively in run defense the last nine years, allowing just 92.5 yards per game.

Asked why the Ravens traded Ngata, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said only, "Cap reasons."

"He was an iconic player for us," Harbaugh said. "Great leader, great friend, great player."

For the Lions, Ngata helps fill the void left by Ndamukong Suh, who signed with the Dolphins in free agency. Although he's 31, Ngata is still dominant, according to coaches who watched his film last year.

"He's virtually unblockable," said Chuck Pagano, a Ravens assistant for four years before becoming Colts head coach in 2012. "He's going to command double teams. He's going to get push in the pass rush.

"He's a force to be reckoned with, and you're going to have to make sure that you do everything you can to make sure he doesn't wreck the game."

Even though Ngata excels as a run stuffer, Harbaugh said he can push the pocket as a rusher. He also said Ngata can play any spot where the Lions need him up front.

"He's a good technique player, but he's a great physical talent," Harbaugh said. "He's just big, fast, leverage, powerful guy. Nobody moves him out of there."

Extra points

The NFL announced the draft order Tuesday. The Lions have picks No. 23 (first round), 54 (second round), 88 (third round), 199 (sixth round), 231 (seventh round, from Baltimore) and 240 (seventh round). They traded picks 122 (fourth round) and 158 (fifth round) to Baltimore in the Ngata trade.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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