The Baltimore Ravens’ pass rush was nothing special last season, but it could be this season, thanks to the offseason acquisition of Elvis Dumervil and a healthy Terrell Suggs.
On paper, the Ravens may not only have their best pass-rushing duo since Suggs arrived in 2003, but they may very well possess the most potent tandem in the NFL.
The talk started not long after Dumervil signed with the Ravens and passed his physical in late March. For all the gifted defensive players that Suggs has played with during his 10-year career, signing Dumervil provides the team with something that it has lacked during Suggs’ tenure: two elite bookend pass rushers in the primes of their career.
After all, both Suggs and Dumervil’s numbers and accolades speak for themselves.
For starters, Suggs, 30, and Dumervil, 29, rank among the 20 active players in sacks, something no other team can boast. Individually speaking, Suggs is a five-time Pro Bowler, a one-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a one-time first-team All-Pro and the Ravens’ all-time leader with 84.5 sacks and 11 forced fumbles. Dumervil, meanwhile, is a three-time Pro Bowl selection, a one-time first-team All-Pro and recorded an NFL-best 19 sacks during the 2009 campaign.
The Ravens will need both Suggs and Dumervil to be at their best throughout the season. Baltimore will square off against some of the league’s top signal-callers – Peyton Manning of the Broncos in Week One, Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans in Week Three, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers in Week Six, Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Weeks Seven and 13, Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals in Weeks 10 and 17 and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots in Week 16.
Given that the NFL has evolved into the pass-happy league that it is, getting consistent pressure on those Pro Bowl quarterbacks, and all quarterbacks, will be imperative for the Ravens’ defense to improve upon the 37 sacks it had last season, tied for 15th in the NFL. That was down from 2011, when the Ravens generated 48 sacks, tied for third best in the league.
With that said, Suggs was never really healthy in 2012, after missing eight games during the regular season while trying to play through a surgically repaired Achillies’ tendon and a torn biceps. But Suggs has looked strong during the team’s first two preseason games, and the hope is that he will return to the force he was in 2011, when he had an AFC-best 14 sacks and seven forced fumbles and was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.
In any case, playing opposite each other at outside linebacker should be mutually beneficial for both Suggs and Dumervil. With Suggs sidelined for the first six weeks last season, Dumervil’s predecessor, Paul Kruger, had just 1.5 sacks. But after Suggs returned to the lineup, Kruger had 7.5 sacks during the final eight games of the regular season, which tied him for fifth in the NFL over that span. That’s telling.
Though Kruger, who parlayed his breakout season into a five-year, $40.5 million contract with the Cleveland Browns, finished with a team-high nine sacks, the big knock on him was that his struggles against the run prevented him from being an every-down linebacker in Baltimore. Unlike Kruger, the feeling about Dumervil is that he defends the run well enough to be an every-down linebacker.
The measuring stick for Suggs and Dumervil will be 24: Baltimore’s franchise record for sacks by two players, set during the 2006 season by Trevor Pryce (13) and Adalius Thomas (11). If Suggs and Dumervil both stay healthy, they should be able to surpass that total.