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Cody could emerge as a leader on and off the field for rookie Courtney Upshaw

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(Credits: IconSportsMedia)

Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Terrence Cody has improved in each of his first two seasons in the NFL, and there’s no reason why that trend can’t continue in 2012.

Cody, 23, got into much better playing shape last year, shedding 65 pounds before the start of the 2011 season, according to a story by Yahoo’s Chris Chase.

All signs now indicate that the 6-foot-4, 335-pound Cody is ready to grow into an even more forceful and dominant presence in the middle of the Ravens’ defensive line.

Over the last decade or so, the bread and butter of the Ravens defense has been shutting down the running game. In order for the defense to remain at a high level, the Ravens need Cody to keep improving and making strides in his game.

Additionally, with Cody set to enter his second full season as a starter, he’s going to have to step up and be more of a leader, especially when it comes to mentoring players like rookie Courtney Upshaw, a fellow Alabama product.

Cody can help Upshaw with the transition from the college game to life in the NFL. Cody’s been there and done that. Plus, the two share a very unique bond having played under Nick Saban.

As Cody starts gaining valuable experience, one way he can continue to grow is by becoming a leader. It’s not necessarily one of those things that will show up in his stats, but it’s just one of those things that can help the comradery and chemistry of a team as a whole.

For Upshaw, there’s no way he could have ever envisioned a scenario such as the one that happened with Terrell Suggs. Suggs, the reining NFL Defensive Player of the Year, tore his Achilles’ Tendon earlier this month, which will likely cost him a good portion of the 2012 season.

Now, it’s expected that Upshaw will take Suggs’ position. But for him to think he can replace the 70 tackles, 14 sacks and seven forced fumbles Suggs gave the Ravens last year would be an overwhelming thought.

With that being said, Cody, along with some of the older veterans on the Ravens defense, can help Upshaw feel more relaxed and make his transition into the starting lineup a bit more easier and a lot less stressful.