Few Ravens saw their stock rise more in 2011 than safety Bernard Pollard.
His prior team, the Houston Texans, didnt mind letting him go after the 2010 season, during which he failed to record an interception. When he signed with the Ravens after the lockout, he was expected to compete with Tom Zbikowski for the starting job alongside Ed Reed, and many saw their competition as a tossup.
Well, it wasnt.
Pollard won the job and became a play-making fixture in the secondary, finishing fourth on the team in tackles and third in passes defended, relegating Zbikowski to a backup role as the Ravens advanced to the AFC title game.
After the season, the Ravens let Zbikowski, their 2008 third-round draft pick, depart as a free agent (he signed with the Indianapolis Colts) and gave Pollard a nifty three-year contract extension, turning him into a cornerstone.
Entering the 2012 season, the Ravens see their secondary as one of their strengths, with Pollard a key component. According to the wonks at Pro Football Focus, he has piled up the fourth-most tackles of any NFL defensive back over the past three years while ranking in the top 10 in total quarterback pressures.
Quite simply, the hard-hitting Pollard showed himself to be a perfect fit for the Ravens aggressive defensive style in 2011. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano utilized him almost as an extra linebacker, sending him into the run defense to blow up tacklers and runners as well as defend passes. Paganos replacement, Dean Pees, surely took note and will follow Paganos lead in 2012.
That Pollard is settled and comfortable in Baltimore was plainly apparent during the spring season of minicamp and OTA practices. Pollard was impossible to miss, his loud voice stirring the energy of players on both sides of the ball.
"Bernard showed last year that he is a Raven, Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome said. He's smart, tough and brings a passion to the games, our practices and in the weight room. His physical presence on the back end is very important to the way we play defense."