The shoulder is the easiest issue to point to when it comes to Upshaw. He’s struggled to stay on the field to get any sort of rhythm. He’s made no impact in preseason games (although in fairness Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees was particularly vanilla during the stretch) and has not stood out with any level of “wow” factor during practices.
The inability of Upshaw to establish himself after being the Ravens’ first pick in the NFL Draft has left the team in a bind defensively that they will have to work around in the coming weeks as they continue life without Suggs.
But for the benefit of “full circle”, I believe it is time to address the word we started this column with.
Courtney Upshaw is not a “bust.” Not close. In fact, despite 18 different variations of the word, I’m struggling to find a way to use Upshaw and “bust” in the same sentence. I guess something along the lines of “Ravens fans are hoping to see Courtney Upshaw bust through opposing offensive lines this season” works, but that’s all I’ve got at the moment.
I have admitted that everything about the way I’m judging the inability to establish Upshaw in the preseason is related to the Suggs injury. If Terrell Suggs were going to be lining up and going after Andy Dalton Monday night, none of us would be concerned about how Upshaw’s progress was coming at this point. We’d be looking to Upshaw only as someone who could come in as a situational rush backer while we sat back and counted sacks from the reliable T-Sizzle.
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah worked as a west coast scout for the Baltimore Ravens when they selected Suggs in the 2003 NFL Draft. Suggs went on to post 12 sacks during his rookie season, but Jeremiah reminded me last week that he was able to do that playing in just the same role as the Ravens had hoped for Upshaw in 2012.
(I’m not suggesting Upshaw should initially be ready to provide the same level of production as a former Top 10 pick, but it would definitely be easier for Upshaw to perform at a high level if the expectations for him were lesser.)
But expectations aren’t the only reason to “bust” up this talk about Upshaw. The better reasons are related to the conversation we were just having earlier about Torrey Smith.
It only took three weeks into the 2011 season for the Ravens to establish Smith as a legitimate NFL receiver. Just 12 months later, the discussion related to Smith is more “is he on the verge of superstardom?” and absolutely not “did the Ravens make a mistake taking him in the second round?”.
Perhaps next Tuesday we’ll be talking about the breakthrough performance of Upshaw against the Bengals. If not, perhaps we’ll be talking about it later in the season. Perhaps we’ll be lauding the amazing ability of the former Crimson Tide star to get after the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, Eli Manning, Robert Griffin III or Peyton Manning later in the season. Perhaps we’ll look back on the preseason and think “how funny is it that we didn’t think this guy was going to be great?”.
We’ll have plenty of time after the season to judge the performance of rookies like Upshaw. We’ll have a much greater ability to judge the selection of Upshaw by Ozzie Newsome and company in the next few years.
In the meantime, can we just “bust” this already?
I’ll promise to “bust” up the bad “bust” puns in return.