He can be picked out from the group of defensive linemen hovering over the line of scrimmage before the snap. Whereas his teammates are disproportionate throughout their body in a way that only makes sense in the football landscape, Chris Canty’s a svelte 6’7″ and 317 pounds.
He’s lean and muscular, with veins going down his forearms and under his taped wrists and palms, which lay flat on the grass as he crouches in a four-point stance. He looks like a converted basketball power forward, and when the play begins, he moves like one, too. He’s one of the league’s most unappreciated freak’s of nature, and he’s also the new defensive end in the Baltimore Ravens’ 3-4 defense.
Canty has a history with the 3-4, having originally been drafted for it way back in 2005 by the Dallas Cowboys, who were using the scheme under head coach Bill Parcells. He played for the ‘boys for three years, excelling at the same position he plays now, and he then signed a lucrative deal to play in the Giants’ 4-3 defense. After four years there, he signed a three-year deal this offseason to come back to the 3-4 and join arguably the best defensive line in football.
To it he brings an intimidation factor that, depending on who you ask, may stem from the custom made facemask he wears to protect a damaged eye from eight years ago. The mask has six horizontal bars and three vertical ones, which are joined by a dark visor that covers that same damaged eye.
He also brings a little bit of nastiness, and incredibly long arms and strong hands. His length and strength stood out this preseason when defending the run. In Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Canty did an excellent job of establishing a new line of scrimmage.
Lined up at the five technique, Canty quickly came out of his stance and forward. He attacked Bucs left guard Ted Larsen, sinking heavy hands into guard’s chest and pushing him back into the backfield to disrupt the rhythm of the play.
What makes this play so interesting is not just the sheer strength that Canty uses to slow the play down, but how he uses it. He’s nearly standing straight up while pushing Larsen back. This is not a traditional pass rushing technique, as players are taught from an early age to play with a low pad level, which is difficult for Canty because of his frame. He doesn’t consistently bend his knees, so he has to rely on his strength much like Calias Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals does in the same situations. For years now, it’s worked.
But as Canty slides down the line of scrimmage and expands with the ball-carrier, he bends his knees and locks out his arms, simultaneously generating lower body power to drive Larsen back and force the ball-carrier to cut to the inside, where there are defenders to make the tackle.
Against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2, the Ravens’ defense struggled to contain running back Steven Jackson, but Canty did his job.
Lined up at right defensive end the majority of the time, Canty was able to jolt blockers into the backfield and disrupt the Falcons’ running game. On one particular stretch play, he walked a tight end into the backfield as soon as Jackson got the handoff. Once again, it was his extensive arm length that enabled him to get into the chest of a blocker and power through.
Once Jackson took the handoff, he went directly at Canty in an attempt to stretch the defense laterally and then cut back inside. As he neared the line of scrimmage, he pivoted inside and looped around the defense before being tackled for a measly three yards.
Statistically speaking, it doesn’t seem like Canty can improve the Ravens’ run defense much from a year ago. They were eighth in yards per carry allowed, giving up only four yards per rush. But he can.
He’ll bring toughness and add sturdiness a the front which, at times, struggled last season despite their high ranking. Not only will he add that from the end position, but also from defensive tackle, where he’s spent some time at the three technique this preseason and played well. It could potentially lead to the Ravens using him there frequently as part of the team’s 40 nickel (four man front, five defensive backs) package.
Overall, Canty is one of the most underrated freaks of nature in the league, and also one of the most underrated signings of the offseason. He’s going to be a great asset to a 3-4 defense that’s unexpectedly reloading rather than rebuilding.