Since Terrell Suggs’ Achilles’ tendon injury, the biggest question facing the Ravens’ defense has been how to replace the NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
After Wednesday’s organized team activity, new defensive coordinator Dean Pees discussed the prospect of having to fill that void with less proven players than the one known as “T-Sizzle.”
“Unfortunately, the situation with Terrell, we would like that to be different, but it’s not,” Pees said. “But it’s also not the first time in any of our careers, especially in mine, that we’ve had a good player either miss some time or even miss a whole season. You’ve still got to install the defense. You’ve still got to find out who can play that position. I don’t think that we’re not going to show up next fall. So the thing of it is somebody’s got to step up, somebody’s got to take his spot.”
Schematically, Pees wouldn’t share if the Ravens will have to compensate for Suggs’ loss with more pressure. But he said what the team does will of course look a bit different without Suggs than with him.
“Everything always affects scheme. Everything does,” he said. “But the difference is if you have a big package, then there’s usually enough stuff within that package that you can change week to week. Just like last year when we lost Ray (Lewis) for four games, did we change the package? Some - you tweak it a little bit, you don’t really change it. You’ve got enough stuff hopefully within your package that if something happens to somebody, you can go to something else that will really kind of play to their strengths, and that’s what you look for in personnel.”
Kruger and McClellan each played in all 16 games, while Upshaw, the Ravens’ top pick in the most recent draft, has a chance to earn a more significant role than he might’ve with a healthy Suggs.
Upshaw said his biggest challenge will be learning to play more drop-back linebacker than the pass-rushing position he filled at Alabama. But he seemed ready for the opportunity in front of him.
“With that injury, it kind of boosts the learning process up,” Upshaw said. “But I’m in the playbook every night and it’s coming along. I’m focused here on making sure I get it.
“It’s extra opportunity, extra responsibility. But I’m sure the leadership won’t let anybody come in and give them slack. They all want to get to the Super Bowl and win another ring here.”