Defense has been the staple of the Baltimore Ravens since they hoisted the Lombardi trophy in 2000. Being the model of defensive consistency in a league that defines parody, has always led to the debate of whether it’s the Ravens system or personnel that fuels their defensive greatness. This may be very well the year that this debate is answered with Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs out with a torn Achilles tendon.
In 2011, Suggs produced stellar individual numbers with: 70 tackles, 14 sacks & 7 forced fumbles. Suggs presence also included intangibles such as QB pressures and disruption in the running game. Suggs influence was also felt in game planning sessions for opposing offensive coordinators. Undeniably a monster season for Suggs for a defense that ranked 3rd in the league last year. But how much of a role did Suggs’s monster individual numbers play in the Ravens defense last year?
Since the Super Bowl year of 2000, there has only been 4 seasons (2002, 2004, 2007 & 2010) in which the Ravens defense was not ranked in the top 5. Also during that time frame there have been 4 seasons in which a Baltimore Raven has claimed the Defensive Player of the Year award Ray Lewis (2), Ed Reed & Terrell Suggs.
I say all of this to say what? My point is that even without Suggs the Baltimore Ravens defense will be fine. There were no significant losses on the defensive side of the ball and a few additions by subtraction (Dominique Foxworth). The Ravens defensive cornerstones Ray Lewis and Ed Reed (hopefully) are returning this season. Also considering that Haloti Ngata is becoming one of if not the best defensive linemen in the league with the ability to line up as a tackle or at end and be productive.
The Ravens also saw the maturation of defensive backs Lardarius Webb & Jimmy Smith on a week-to-week basis. Ravens top pick Courtney Upshaw has been touted as a “Suggs like player” in that, he has ability to line up as an OLB or DE. Upshaw may not be Suggs but during his junior & senior season he registered a total of 15.5 sacks. Which shows he has some promise as a pass rusher.
Will the Ravens miss T-Sizzle? Of course. But the Ravens have more than enough talented players to step and contribute in his absence. This defense has seen and overcome injuries in the past and this season will be no different.
*All Stats Taken From ESPN.com
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