The Ravens are suddenly staring at life after Terrell Suggs much more quickly than they expected to.
Coach John Harbaugh revealed after the game on Sunday that Suggs has been lost for the season with a torn Achilles, a stunning setback suffered in the fourth quarter of the Ravens' 19-13 loss at Denver.
Suggs, who turns 33 next month, had 12 sacks last season, and he and Elvis Dumervil (17 sacks) combined to form the league's most prolific pass-rushing duo last year with 29 sacks. They were expected to do so again this year, but now one-half of that equation has been abruptly erased.
So who is the next man up?
The Ravens depth chart lists rookie Za'Darius Smith as Suggs' backup, but Smith was a game-day inactive on Sunday. Are the Ravens ready to elevate him to a starting job? The fourth-round pick had 10 1/2 sacks in two seasons at Kentucky and had one this preseason.
The most logical replacement for Suggs is Courtney Upshaw,who has been a solid run-stuffing, edge-setting outside linebacker. But he has only three sacks in three seasons with the Ravens. (Although his hammering hit of Ben Roethlisberger last year was waved off by a questionable penalty call.) Can Upshaw consistently beat an offensive tackle to the edge and track down a quarterback, as Suggs has done so well for more than a decade?
Before this season, Upshaw was hardly ever on the field on passing downs, replaced by Dumervil.
Albert McClellan has some experience playing both inside and outside linebacker with the Ravens, and he might starting getting more reps on the outside. The Ravens also have undrafted rookie Brennen Beyer on the practice squad, and barring the addition of a free agent, perhaps Beyer will be elevated to the active roster. But to be sure, none of them spells Suggs.
No doubt general manager Ozzie Newsome will also be combing the waiver wire. One intriguing name is Dwight Freeney, the 13-year veteran who had 3 1/2 sacks for San Diego last season and has 111.5 in his career. Freeney is already 35, but might be worth a look as a sub-package, third-down specialist.