In this third season, Terrence Cody lost a significant amount of weight.
He also lost his starting job at nose tackle to Ma'ake Kemoeatu.
Kemoeatu, however, injured his knee and didn't play in the last game before the bye, a 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans. That gave Cody his first start of the season after starting all 16 games last season for what was then the NFL's third-ranked defense in total yards allowed, second against the run in yards allowed and No. 1 in red zone defense.
"I feel like I can do a lot more. I got to do my job and know my role," said Cody, who isn't putting too much emphasis on starting. "I'm chasing it but at the same time … we aren't dominating each other in reps so it's not a big deal."
Cody represents a young core of defensive players who have to emerge quickly if the Ravens are to stay atop the AFC North. The Ravens have fallen to the NFL's 28th-ranked defense, and against the run as they've allowed an average of 207 yards in the last three games.
"Like all young players, I think you want to see consistency. You just want to see them doing the learning from mistakes and then not making that same mistake again," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said of Cody and the likes of rookie linebacker Courtney Upshaw and second-year cornerback Jimmy Smith. "All of them are playing hard. Our guys are working hard. They’re studying hard."
Kemoeatu fully participated at practice Thursday, but defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (shoulder) didn't. Ngata had a shoulder issue before the Texans game, as well as a knee strain.
That would mean more work for Cody likely will come Sunday at the Cleveland Browns, who are expected to attack them on the ground with Trent Richardson surging.
"We just expect to do better, especially our technique," said Cody, echoing a common sentiment around Owings Mills all week among defensive players. "We expect that to get a lot better and just to do our job. Each man has to be accountable for himself."
Being that it's the Browns raises the stakes.
"It's a division game. It's a must-win game," Cody said. "When you have division rivalries, it's always a must-win game."