COMMENTARY | The Baltimore Ravens accumulated 37 sacks last season: an adequate number, but too often opposing passers had excessive time to find an open receiver. General manager Ozzie Newsome, never one to settle for mediocrity, made upgrading the pass rush a priority, and he's done just that. By adding Chris Canty and Elvis Dumervil, the Ravens have added the weapons needed to have a fearsome pass rush, and with better health from guys like Terrell Suggs and Pernell McPhee, this year's Ravens' pass rush has the ability to be special.
To be fair, the Ravens are definitely relying on a bit of luck in Suggs' and McPhee's recoveries. In 2011, that duo combined for 20 sacks. Last season, they combined for 3.5, as the pair struggled with a variety of injuries.
Suggs is coming off a torn Achilles that kept him from six games in 2012 and limited him in the others. Determined to regain his 2011 form, Suggs has come to the Ravens' minicamp trim and as explosive as ever. He knows how to get to the passer, and if his energy level at minicamp is any indication, Suggs will be physically ready to dominate again this season.
McPhee, on the other hand, didn't have one specifically debilitating injury like Suggs. Instead, McPhee was constantly hobbled by groin and knee injuries that he was able to play through, but clearly not at 100 percent. As he began to get healthier, McPhee's play picked up in a big way, as he provided more pressure and batted two passes.
With both McPhee and Suggs healthy, the Ravens' pass rush would be better almost by default. Even the loss of Paul Kruger to free agency cannot compare to the impact these two can have when healthy.
Yet, the Ravens intelligently pursued even more pass rushers by adding Canty and Dumervil. Both should step into starting roles immediately and provide major pressure.
Dumervil had similar production to Kruger last season, but Dumervil has displayed much more career consistency and should excel in a 3-4 defense. Further, Dumervil is a leader who actually signed for less money in Baltimore than Kruger did in Cleveland. He is explosive off the snap and should give opposing tackles trouble with his burst and lateral quickness.
Canty, meanwhile, will probably take Arthur Jones' starting job. While Jones really caught on as the season went on, Canty is a more seasoned hand with a long record of pressuring opposing quarterbacks. At 6'7", Canty excels at clogging passing lanes and forcing opposing passers to look the other way for an open throw. His explosion is also a big plus that allows him to sneak through interior gaps for sacks and pressure.
With new pieces and returning hands, the Ravens are set to have a fearsome pass rush this season. Jones has also proven to be able to get to the quarterback, and early returns on third-round draft pick Brandon Williams have been solid, especially regarding his athleticism.
Finally, don't forget about Haloti Ngata. Another Raven who was hampered by injuries last season, Ngata still managed to rack up five sacks. Ngata needs to get back into playing shape, but he has plenty of time to recover. A healthy Ngata is a fearsome pass rusher, so he too will be a major force.
With all these weapons, the real question isn't whether or not the Ravens will have a good pass rush, but how they will utilize all these weapons? Certainly, the Ravens' rotation in the front seven will be deep. Marcus Spears, Ngata, Williams, Terrence Cody, Canty, Jones and McPhee will all see reps along the defensive line, while Courtney Upshaw and McPhee could also spell Dumervil and Suggs at outside linebacker.
Just imagine being a quarterback, staring at a defense with Terrell Suggs and Pernell McPhee on one side and Elvis Dumervil and Chris Canty on the other. Looking up the middle, there stands Haloti Ngata. That should keep more than a few quarterbacks up at night.
Only time will tell if the Ravens' pass rush fulfills its promise, but Ozzie Newsome has done an amazing job of assembling talent this offseason. With their deepest stable of pass rushers in years, the Ravens are poised to dominate the line of scrimmage en route to a vastly improved defense in 2013.
Shawn Brubaker lives in Washington, DC. He has been a Baltimore Ravens featured columnist for Bleacher Report for two years and has been published in a variety of other publications.
- American Football
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- Chris Canty
- Terrell Suggs
- Elvis Dumervil
- the Ravens
- Ozzie Newsome