SAN JOSE – The Ravens would wake up Monday in Califonia, and realize that Terrell Suggs’ season-ending Achilles injury was reality, and not just a bad dream. Here are five ways that losing an impact outside linebacker in Suggs will impact the Ravens’ season:
1. The Ravens are no longer a trendy pick for the Super Bowl.
How quickly things change. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is not serving a four-game suspension, and New England is 1-0. Suggs is done for the year, and the Ravens are 0-1. A few weeks ago, the Ravens were a popular AFC favorite among national media. Without Suggs, they’ll be plenty of people jumping off the Ravens’ bandwagon.
2. Courtney Upshaw and Za’Darius Smith, get ready for your close-up.
Both outside linebackers will play more, and become more important to the Ravens’ defense. Smith was a healthy scratch against the Broncos, but he will likely be Sunday against the Raiders. The Ravens hope their fourth-round pick will develop as a pass-rusher – quickly. As for Upshaw, he has long wanted more playing time and responsibility. Now he’ll get it, but can Upshaw become more proficient as a pass rusher, and not just a run stopper?
3. Elvis Dumervil will see more double-teams
Dumervil and Suggs gave the Ravens one of the NFL’s best pass-rushing combos. Having them as bookend linebackers kept opposing teams from focusing on just one. Now Dumervil will lineup for the first time as a Raven without Suggs as his running mate. Dumervil is a great player, but he may be the Raven who misses Suggs’ presence the most.
4. The Ravens will likely blitz more.
Suggs could often whip the player trying to block him, meaning the Ravens didn’t have to blitz to get pressure on quarterbacks. Now defensive coordinator Dean Pees may have to call more blitzes to get the pass rush he wants. As a result, the Ravens may still get to the quarterback. But they may also surrender more big plays.
5. Stopping the run could become more difficult.
The Ravens’ run defense didn’t’ look that good in the fourth quarter at Denver. Now three key members of the Ravens’ front seven from last season are gone - Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (Lions) and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee (Bears). Young players like tackles Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, and Carl Davis must flourish, or the Ravens’ run defense will suffer.