The Baltimore Ravens took a beating on the injury front like few teams have last season, taking multiple blows at key positions such as wide receiver and outside linebacker. In terms of the latter, they lost starting edge rusher Terrell Suggs in the season opener before he even recorded a single statistic, taken out by a torn Achilles.
The 33-year-old former Defensive Player of the Year took the field for the first time in over 11 months on Monday, finally activated from the Physically Unable to Perform List just as the Ravens winded down their slate of training camp sessions.
No matter his age, there can be no arguing that Suggs has been a highly impactful player when he has been healthy over the course of the past six years. Excluding the two seasons in which he has been injured in that span, he has recorded anywhere between 10 to 14 sacks when healthy, with a low tackle total of 61 and a high of 80. Sprinkle in a turnover here and there and you get his average year.
And make no mistake, the Ravens need Suggs to be in form, considering the blows that they’ve taken. They lost Courtney Upshaw during free agency, and their rookie second-round pick, Kamalei Correa suffered a broken ankle that will end his season.
Behind Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, who is still on the PUP List himself, is second-year Za’Darius Smith, as well as rookies Matt Judon, Victor Ochi, and Mario Ojemudia, the former a draft pick, the latter two undrafted free agents. While Smith has shown flashes—he had 5.5 sacks as a rookie in split playing time—he wouldn’t be the first second-year player to take a step back.
So it was with a bit of fanfare that Suggs made his return to the practice field, referring to himself as “Darth Sizzle” and saying that “it felt great to be back on the field with the team, there is nothing like it”.
Granted, Suggs was not full-go in practice by any means, and did not participate in 11-on-11 drills. The team has said that he will be worked back slowly, and it is yet to be determined if he will participate during the preseason at all.
The Ravens’ defensive scheme has really been run through the prism of what Suggs brings to the table in recent years, and that should have been made obvious to see how the defense changed without him on the field for virtually all of the season in 2015.
With Suggs back, the defense should play a more characteristic brand of football after they allowed 25 points per game and 104 rushing yards per game, with 10 rushing touchdowns against. They also gave up 30 touchdowns through the air, while they slipped to 17th in sacks with only 37, and just 14 turnovers.