Terrell Suggs can’t be replaced by Courtney Upshaw


Sep 13, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) leaves the field due to injury in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos won 19-13. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Losing a top shelf player to a season ending injury is one of the worst things that can happen to an NFL team.  It stings even more when that player goes down in the very first week of the season.  And there’s no question that losing a pass rushing linebacker is devastating for any team.

For the Baltimore Ravens, losing Terrell Suggs is a nightmare situation for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most significant is that they have ignored the position over the last couple of years, banking too much on the continued health and success of Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.

Outside linebacker was a luxury for the Ravens last season as Pernell McPhee exceeded all expectations. But the Ravens let him walk, and didn’t do anything to address the loss outside of drafting Za’Darius Smith in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Smith was inactive Sunday against the Broncos, which likely won’t be the case going forward.  But he needs time to develop and clearly showed in the preseason that he isn’t ready for a big role yet.  John Harbaugh has already stated that it will be Courtney Upshaw who will step in for Suggs going forward.

That’s bad news for a team that has relied heavily on it’s excellent pass rushing linebacker duo over the last few years.  While Suggs has racked up 106.5 sacks over the last 12 years, Upshaw has only 3 in his 3 seasons.  Though he also hasn’t been used much as a situational pass rusher, it’s an obvious downgrade for the Ravens.

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Making matters worse, Upshaw flopped Sunday afternoon in a full time role even while Suggs was in the lineup.  Playing 59 snaps, he received Pro Football Focus’ worst grade for any Ravens defensive player, particularly struggling as a pass rusher.

Across those 59 snaps, Upshaw rushed the passer 20 times yet didn’t record a sack, hurry, or hit on Peyton Manning.  Meanwhile, his teammates went off for 4 sacks, 2 hits, and 10 hurries.  It’s a theme that has carried over year after year.

The Ravens gambled by thinking that Upshaw would be the next contract year superstar, a la Pernell McPhee, Paul Kruger, and Arthur Jones, and it appears that they might lose this bet.  It certainly doesn’t look like they have a suitable replacement for Terrell Suggs on the current roster.

Next: Ravens highest and lowest rated players, week 1

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