A cloud of doubt formed over the Baltimore Ravens when news broke the week of April 30 that star linebacker/defensive end Terrell Suggs had ruptured his Achilles Heel, throwing the team’s 2012 chances into doubt.

Suggs captured Defensive Player of the Year honors last season, and helped propel the Ravens to the AFC title game. But without Suggs’ 14 sacks and a franchise-best seven forced fumbles, how will Baltimore fare in their attempts to capture a Super Bowl trophy this season? AFRO Sports Writers Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of debate.

Green: The Baltimore Ravens are deep. So deep that many wouldn’t and perhaps shouldn’t recognize capable names such as Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle or Pernell McPhee, two of which accounted for 11 sacks last year. However, the name Courtney Upshaw may ring a bell. The hybrid pass rusher was Alabama’s best sack artist last season, powering the Crimson Tide to another BCS crown. All four names will unite to form Suggs’ replacement plan as the Ravens head into the 2012-2013 campaign. Can one player replace a star player such as Suggs? Of course not. But with those four rotating and maybe even a free agent coming into town, Baltimore will be just fine without the man affectionately known as “T-Sizzle.”

Riley: It’s not a coincidence that Suggs’ best season as a pro came the same season that Baltimore was a dropped touchdown pass away from their second Super Bowl appearance. Top-rated pass rushers are hard to find—and even harder to replace. Sure, you threw out a bunch of names just to brag about the Ravens’ depth, but did it ever occur to you that, of the 11-plus sacks that McPhee and Kruger posted, they may have been getting some extra help from Suggs? It was easy for those guys to tee off on quarterbacks with teams planning for Suggs but now the spotlight will be on those guys. Take away any team’s best defensive player and a drop off is sure to follow.

Green: But that’s where you’re wrong. Suggs had the numbers but let’s not overlook guys like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata and just say Suggs is the Ravens’ defensive standout. Baltimore will be fine on the line when you factor in Ngata, third-year tackles Terrence Cody and Arthur Jones and the aforementioned players. Baltimore doesn’t fold when an injury occurs, they just reload with starters in the waiting. Suggs’ injury no doubt hurts but it’s nowhere near the end of the Ravens’ season.

Riley: How far will they go without him?

Green: It’s Super Bowl or bust, like it is every year.

Riley: I’m with you on them being competitive in the regular season, but once the postseason hits and you’re lining up across from guys like Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers, you’re going to wish Suggs was in uniform.

Green: Not to discredit Suggs—last season was a spectacular one for him—but Baltimore has finished 13-3 in 2006 despite just 9.5 sacks from Suggs. They finished 11-5 in 2008 with only eight sacks from him and they still made the playoffs in 2009 with only 4.5 sacks from their so-called “best defensive player.” Maybe the silver lining in all of this is that they were fortunate the injury happened in early May. That gives them a whole summer to prepare for life without Suggs. and with the way they’ve stocked up on defensive players over these last few drafts, I think they’ll be just fine without him. Super Bowl or bust.

 

Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk