OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Terrell Suggs hasn’t taken the field at M&T Bank Stadium since last January, but when he makes his 2012 home debut on Sunday, he’ll be looking across the line of scrimmage at a familiar opponent.
It will mark quarterback Carson Palmer’s first game against the Ravens since he was traded to the Oakland Raiders last season, but Suggs remembers the longtime Bengals quarterback as a thorn in his team’s side for years. Palmer owns a 9-4 record in his career against the Ravens, including some last-minute heroics on a couple occasions in Baltimore.
“He is one of those underrated quarterbacks that can make every throw, especially if he gets in a groove,” Suggs said. “You all saw it when he was in Cincinnati. I remember vividly games I thought we had won, and Carson Palmer got in his groove and he torched us. He is a really good quarterback, and he knows us pretty well, too.”
Palmer erased a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Ravens in 2004 and also marched the Bengals 80 yards for the game-winning touchdown pass to Andre Caldwell with 22 seconds remaining in their 2009 meeting in Baltimore.
At 32 years old, Palmer doesn’t display the same rifle that prompted the Bengals to draft the 2002 Heisman Trophy winner with the first overall pick of the 2003 draft, but the Raiders quarterback has thrown for 2,355 yards, 13 touchdowns, and eight interceptions this season. Never considered a mobile quarterback, Palmer has never had too many issues with Suggs over the years as the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker has collected just four sacks in the 13 games they’ve played against each other.
Of course, many of those games came with Cincinnati’s capable left tackle Andrew Whitworth keeping Suggs in check. The Raiders will entrust Jared Veldheer to protect Palmer’s blindside from the 2011 Defensive Player of the Year.
“You still have to play the game, but this is one of the more dangerous quarterbacks because he doesn’t scramble,” Suggs said. “He’ll stand in the pocket and make the play and make the right throw.”
With Oakland running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson both suffering high ankle sprains in the Raiders’ Week 9 loss to Tampa Bay, Palmer will likely be expected to throw at will after attempting 61 passes and tossing four touchdowns in the loss to the Buccaneers.
Meanwhile, Suggs hopes to continue to build on his comeback from a partially-torn Achilles tendon after a quiet performance against Cleveland in his second game back. Sunday will mark the first time that Suggs will have played games in two straight weeks, and the pass-rusher admits he is still working his way back to pre-injury form.
How close he is to being 100 percent is anyone’s guess, but Suggs did not appear to take a step forward in Cleveland after a strong debut that included a sack in the Ravens’ Week 7 loss in Houston.
“The only thing that can really determine that is my play,” Suggs said. “As I get better, I can get some of my explosion back and, not only that, my game-time wind. We pretty much evaluate after every game.”
Disappearing tight ends
Entering the season with high expectations, tight ends Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson haven’t taken the steps forward the Ravens had hoped to see through the first half of the season.
Pitta started fast this season, catching 18 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns in the first three games of the season, but the third-year tight end has caught just 14 passes and no touchdowns in the last five games.
Even more concerning has been the disappearance of Dickson, who has only 10 receptions for 85 yards in eight games. The former third-round pick caught 54 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns last season as it appeared he and Pitta were emerging as one of the most dangerous tandems of tight ends in the league.
“The tight ends can be more productive,” coach John Harbaugh said. “That’s something that they are working really hard. [Tight ends coach] Wade Harman is doing a great job coaching them, but I’d like to see a few more plays out of them, and I know they feel the same way.”
Dickson has struggled to catch the football, a problem he dealt with last season, while Pitta has had trouble getting open against man-to-man coverage.
Pitta believes the reduced number of opportunities has been a factor for the lack of production at the tight end position. After he was targeted 30 times in the first three games of the year, Pitta has been targeted by quarterback Joe Flacco 20 times in the last five games.