The Baltimore Ravens have made the effort to invest in their edge rush more consistently than any other team in the AFC North over the course of the division’s existence, and about as much as any other team in the league. And yet, like the Pittsburgh Steelers quite recently, continue to have to rely on a defender closer to 40 than to 30.
Terrell Suggs, to be fair, does continue to play at a high level, as James Harrison had been in 2016. In fact, he led the Ravens in sacks last season with 11, and he also produced four forced fumbles, recording four passes defensed as well.
Even if he continues to be a strong performer, however, the Ravens are looking to get him more time off at the least, even if they don’t feel that they need to replace him just yet. They continued to make further investments at the outside linebacker position in the draft last year in the early-mid rounds with Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams.
Bowser did record three sacks as a rookie last season, and even intercepted a pass. Williams, though, played very sparsely and only produced six tackles with no other statistics. The Ravens will need both of them to play a bigger role going forward.
According to Bo Smolka of Pressbox, Bowser did look good during OTAs and in minicamp. “This spring, Bowser had several highlight-reel plays in practices open to the media, including what would have been about a 95-yard pick-six interception”, he wrote.
His position coach also said of him that he was their “most productive [linebacker] just in terms of sacks and interceptions and that sort of thing. I’m really happy in how he’s coming along”. That development will be important in getting more speed on the perimeter and saving Suggs some wear and tear over the course of the season.
Not that I’m in a rush to see the Ravens find more success around the edge. Personally, I’ve enjoyed their three-year hiatus from playoff contention. After all, the last time they were in the playoffs, they knocked the division-winning Steelers out of the contest in the Wildcard round and injured their quarterback.
From Sergio Kindle in 2010 and on, Baltimore has struggled to find a consistent producer opposite Suggs. And when they have found anybody with potential, they have allowed them to walk in free agency. Even Paul Kruger to John Simon have found opportunities with other teams.
But they are getting to the point where they do have to find somebody. Suggs talks as though he doesn’t plan on retiring any time soon, but players at his age can fall off at any time, as we have seen happen often enough.