Terrell Suggs Is The Reigning Defensive player of the year. He is inarguably a top 5 defender in the NFL. He is one of the best pass rushers in the league. He is the best run defending OLB in the game. He is arguably the most complete Linebacker in the league. He is down for at least the first 6-8 weeks of the season. He is all those things, but he is NOT the best defender on the Ravens defense.
I love Sizzle. Nothing I’m about to say is any type of slight against Suggs. Suggs was voted the best defender in the league last year and he absolutely deserved it. That said, Suggs was neither the best, nor the most important player on the Ravens defense this year, last year or any other year. That distinction belongs to Haloti Ngata.
Maybe im just a homer, but in my opinion, Haloti Ngata is the best defensive player in the NFL. period. He might be the best 3-4 DE to ever play the game by the time his career is over.
The Question today has been who will replace Terrell Suggs. Thats a valid question in the face of the devastating news of Suggs injury, But the truth is that it doesnt really matter. No one player or any assemblage of players is going to replace Suggs in the lineup. It sucks, but it’s a fact. That’s football, That’s Life, Get over it.
Now, losing your second best player on either side of the ball hurts(imagine losing Yanda on Offense), but it isnt the end of the world. The Ravens Defense is particularly well prepared to absorb the loss of an impact player simply because they have so many of them. Ray Lewis is still playing at a high level. Ed Reed is still making a huge impact on games. Haloti Ngata is the best defender in football. Lardarius Webb is a top 5 CB. Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams are both solid and improving. Bernard Pollard is coming off the best season of his career and is arguably a top 10 safety. Terrence Cody is becoming one of the best NTs in the league. Paul Kruger has shown some promise. Courtney Upshaw will be, at worst, will be a solid defender after a couple games to acclimate to the NFL.
There is a ridiculous amount of talent on the Ravens defense. They are incredibly deep at a few positions and never seem to struggle to come up with an answer to the loss of a stud player. They went 4-2 without Ed Reed 2 years ago. they went 4-0 without Ray Lewis. They can win without Suggs. Haloti Ngata is how they will do it.
Go watch some tape of Ngata. What you will see is nothing but constant double teams, chip blocks, Cut blocks, bootlegs away from him and fake plays designed to fool him. When opposing teams start to game plan for the Ravens, that plan starts and ends with Ngata. Suggs makes a ton of plays by himself, but any player rushing behind Ngata will get his fair share of clean looks. Ngata does nothing but clear paths to get to the backfield. The Ravens registered 48 Sacks last year. 39 of them came from players rushing off the left side(of the offense), Where Ngata lurks.
I’m not about to say that whoever plays LOLB for the Ravens this year will have a Defensive player of the year season. Im not saying they will have 14 sacks. Im not saying they will have 5+ INTs or 5+ Forced Fumbles or 2 TDs. But i wouldn’t be terribly surprised if that player had 10+ sacks, and made a few huge plays in pivotal moments to contribute to winning games. Not because they are elite players, but because Ngata is.
Paul Kruger is the obvious choice to fill in for Suggs. Rookie Courtney Upshaw is a poor scheme fit on the left side because he is not an elite pass rusher. Kruger would only need to focus on pass rushing on the left because Ngata and Cody can sufficiently defend the run game pretty much by themselves. beyond that i would guess that the next player would have to be a free agent or trade option. the Ravens don’t really have another LOLB on the roster. I have a feeling i will say this 1000 times this year, but Upshaw, while an excellent scheme fit(on the Right side) and a really promising player, he is not anything more than a fallback option to replace Suggs. Another name that I’m sure will be thrown around quite a bit(I have already seen it a few times) is Osi Umenyiora, Currently of the New York Giants. Osi would be a good fit and he has near prototype size and skillset to play the position, however, he wants out of his contract, wants a significant amount of money and may cost a pretty penny in any potential trade. Paying Osi at this point would be silly since the Ravens just invested their top pick in Upshaw and already have Suggs and Kruger on the roster. Once Suggs comes back where does he play? does he take Upshaws spot? what about Kruger? trading for Osi would be the epitome of a knee jerk reaction. Second year player James Michael McAdoo has been mentioned but unless he adds at least 15-20 lbs of bulk to his frame then i seriously doubt he has any potential to start anytime soon. Sergio Kindle? I loved him coming out, but at this point im not sure he will ever really play football at anything resembling a high level again (as a side note,Dear Courtney Upshaw, please avoid stairs. Sincerely, Ravens Nation).
Talking about Who will replace Suggs is like talking about who will replace Ed Reed or Ray Lewis. Its a silly argument to begin with and it doesn’t have a right answer, not if you only look at the same position. Ray Lewis’ successor is Suggs. Reeds replacements are Webb and Smith. Suggs’ replacement? Haloti Ngata. My guess is he does a damn fine job.