He was dominant and looked like the kind of impact player who was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. He was on pace for the best statistical performance of his career.
But the second half of the season was a different story, as Suggs’ production declined and he was unable to make the big plays that seemed routine during his first eight games.
“I’ve been taking a few looks at it,” Suggs said Monday at the announcement of his four-year contract extension.
“I have a few guesses, but I haven’t really pinpointed one reason or another.”
Here’s a closer look at the stats comparing Suggs’ first and second halves of the season:
First 8 Games
Final 8 Games
24 quarterback hurries
13 quarterback hurries
As Suggs discussed his 2014 season Monday, the biggest factor that he pointed to for the drop-off in production was the pressure that he put on himself. The Ravens were struggling, and the spotlight was on the veteran defensive leader.
“I think I was probably down the stretch trying to do too much,” Suggs said. “As one game went by, as two games went by, it was just like, ‘Alright, I need to get a sack. I need to get a sack,’ and I stopped letting the game come to me. Just looking at it from off the top of my head, I would say that, but I’m definitely going to take a firmer look at it in the weeks coming ahead.”
While Suggs went through a career-high six-game stretch without a sack during the second half of the year, he pointed out that the team started to play better overall during that time. The Ravens were 5-1 during Suggs’ sack-less streak, compared to the 3-5 mark in the first half of the year when he was on fire.
“The sacks kind of went down, but one thing did happen – we did start winning a lot,” Suggs said.
At this point of Suggs’ career, he consistently downplays the significance of his personal numbers in favor of talking about team wins.
And getting the Ravens back to one of the NFL’s top overall defenses is a priority for the 12-year veteran.
The Ravens finished last season ranked 12th in yards allowed (333.5 yards per game) and points allowed (22 points per game). He sees the Ravens on the verge of becoming a dominant defense again.
“I think we’re very close,” Suggs said. “I think last year was definitely a period of adjustment. We had a lot of new guys in a lot of key places, and chemistry, you have to be able to click.”
The Ravens had to replace seven defenders with starting experience from their Super Bowl roster, including future Hall of Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Learning to play without those stars, and also welcoming in a new crop of defenders, was an adjustment for Suggs.
“I was able to take chances on plays when I had Superman [Ed Reed] in the secondary that can cover both sides of the field,” Suggs said. “I was able to do some things – a lot of guys, Haloti [Ngata] – and when you have a linebacker [Ray Lewis] that can see things coming, he’s seeing the same thing you’re seeing, and when you lose that, you kind of have to take a step back, and you just have to do your job.
“You can’t take chances. I think we definitely learned, as I said it was a period of adjustment, and we definitely learned how to play with each other last year.”