Impact of Terrell Suggs injury on Ravens' defense
Following the trend of Week 1 big-name injuries, Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles tendon early in the fourth quarter of the 19-13 loss to the Broncos. The six-time Pro Bowler is expected to miss the rest of the season. So, how will John Harbaugh’s defense cope without its star?
Suggs not only graded out as PFF’s No. 2 rated 3-4 OLB last season (+37.3), but he entered the year as our top-rated linebacker against the run two years running at a combined +26.4. This is where the Ravens will miss Suggs the most.
Pro-Bowl tackle Haloti Ngata (+13.4) and Suggs (+15.0) were two of the top three PFF-ranked Ravens defenders against the run last season. This past offseason, general manager Ozzie Newsome traded Ngata to Detroit. Currently, the Ravens do not have a player on their roster to help replace that run-stopping ability.
The one player though who was solid against the run last season, and with increased playing time can provide additional relief, is fourth-year linebacker Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw was rated as the No. 12 3-4 OLB versus the run last season for PFF, but only played 542 snaps — 333 less than Suggs. He earned a slightly positive grades against the run versus Denver (+0.1), but a negative grade overall (-1.8).
Regarding the Ravens’ pass rush, another player Newsome let go was outside linebacker Pernell McPhee. McPhee was PFF’s No. 2 rated pass rusher as a 3-4 OLB last season (+30.4) while Suggs was No. 8 (20.3). One of the reasons I’m not as worried about the loss of Suggs as a pass rusher is due to 10-year vet Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil was PFF’s No. 3 rated pass rusher as a 3-4 OLB last season.
The other reason is rookie fourth-round pick Za’Darius Smith. Smith was the MVP of the East-West Shrine game and a preseason CFF Value Pick after totaling 47 quarterback pressures last season in Kentucky, which happened to be more than his teammate Bud Dupree (drafted 22nd overall by Pittsburgh in the first round). Smith was inactive versus Denver, but he looked comfortable in the preseason in his primary role as a situational pass-rusher with a +3.4 PFF pass rush rating. If Smith can translate that type of play over to the regular season, Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees will be pleased.
Suggs has a history of Achilles tendon tears, suffering the same injury before the 2012 season. After winning AP Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2011, Suggs tore his Achilles tendon the following offseason and returned less than six months later, faster than any other player for that type of injury. Suggs actually graded out his best game for PFF that season in Week 7 at Houston and helped the Ravens win Super Bowl XLVII. It was Suggs who came up big in the divisional round matchup at Denver with two sacks and his second-best PFF grade of the season.
If Suggs does indeed miss the rest of the season, the Ravens will sorely miss him. What will hurt the Ravens the most will be his leadership and the fact that they are a defensive-minded team with offensive limitations. The slightest drop-off in personnel, especially one of his stature, is going to be a huge blow to the Ravens in a strong AFC North.