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Sep 15, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz (72) prepares to block Baltimore Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil (58) during the first half at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens: Who Will Lead the Ravens in Sacks?

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One year ago, the Baltimore Ravens were optimistic their pass rush, featuring newly acquired linebacker Elvis Dumervil and a rejuvenated Terrell Suggs, would wreak havoc on opponents.

For half the year, they were right.

As the season wore on, though, Dumervil struggled through injuries while Suggs wore down. With nobody else to strike fear into quarterbacks, the Ravens defense languished, ending the season with 40 sacks after such a promising start.

The same personnel returns this year: a healthier Dumervil, a once again rejuvenated Suggs and a host of unknowns. In fact, the third leading pass rusher for the Ravens a year ago was Daryl Smith, known more for his contributions in coverage and stuffing the run.

In last year’s hit or miss pass rush, Suggs led the team with 10 sacks. Who will it be this year?

Odds are it will be one of these guys.

Terrell Suggs

Nov 24, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs (55) reacts after recovering a fumble during the game against the New York Jets at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Suggs is the incumbent leading sacker for the Ravens, and he has a good chance to retain that title this year.

The boisterous linebacker has flashed dominance in practice, despite not standing out in the preseason games to this point.

Suggs uses his bull rush to devastating effect against finesse offensive tackles, but he has enough speed and explosion to threaten the stronger, slower tackles as well.

Opposing quarterbacks can never count Suggs out of a play with his high motor, and he should get some sacks just on hustle alone.

Expect Suggs to be close to double-digit sacks. Whether or not that will be enough to lead the team remains to be seen.

Odds: 35 percent chance

 

Elvis Dumervil

Nov 24, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil (58) rushes the passer during the game against the New York Jets at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

While Suggs led the team in sacks, Dumervil was the team’s best pass rusher for much of the year.

Dumervil’s explosive first step threatens every offensive tackle in the league, and his hand use is probably the best on the team.

Though Dumervil struggled with injuries late last year, he consistently pressured quarterbacks for much of the year.

Hurting Dumervil’s chances to lead the team in sacks will be his relative lack of reps. Splitting time with Courtney Upshaw will lessen his opportunities, though Dumervil will still be on the field for most passes.

All things considered, Dumervil should again be a threat this year, and has the best chance to lead the team in sacks. In fact, I would expect him to surpass his mark from last year, 9.5, with relative ease.

Odds: 45 percent chance

 

Pernell McPhee

December 9, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens defensive end Pernell McPhee (90) lines up against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

 

An unexpected entrant into this competition is Pernell McPhee, who has been dominant in preseason getting after quarterbacks.

With seven pressures so far this preseason per Pro Football Focus (subscription needed), McPhee has been by far the Ravens’ most effective pass rusher. Though he has just one sack, McPhee has made a living in opponent’s backfields.

The odds are long for McPhee to lead the team in sacks, as he is a rotational player with just average closing speed. That said, McPhee managed six sacks as a rookie in 2011. A higher number would not be out of the question for the high-motor pass rusher.

Ultimately, pay attention to McPhee’s reps in the regular season. With enough reps, McPhee can make some major noise in this race.

Odds: 15 percent chance

 

Others

Nov 3, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Jason Campbell (17) drops back to pass as guard Shawn Lauvao (66) blocks Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata (92) at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Daryl Smith actually ranked third on the team with five sacks last season. He is an effective pass rusher when given the opportunity, and the Ravens do like to blitz inside linebackers. Smith blitzed 88 times last year.

Haloti Ngata says he is aiming for double-digit sacks, and he should be able to rush the passer more effectively now that Brandon Williams is manning the nose. That said, Ngata has had eight seasons to reach that goal, and he has never even come close. What makes this year any different?

The only other players who might get enough reps to challenge for the team lead are Chris Canty and Courtney Upshaw. Upshaw is a non-factor as a pass rusher, while Canty is better at disrupting quarterbacks vision with his height than he is at bringing them down.

There is no way one of these players leads the team in sacks unless Dumervil and Suggs have horrendous years. That’s not likely, but it could happen.

Odds: 10 percent chance

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Tags: Baltimore Ravens Elvis Dumervil Pernell McPhee Terrell Suggs

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