Eisenberg: Fair To Expect A Lot From Terrell Suggs ... Within Reason


The "Darth Sizzle" press release that Terrell Suggs sent out after he returned to practice Monday signaled that he's still his old self when it comes to finding ways to dominate the Ravens' off-field news cycle.

Of course, the Ravens have never worried whether Suggs would be able to bring it off the field in 2016, especially after his cameo appearance in Ballers. Anyone who goes so far as to nickname himself in a press release is still in his prime as a personality.

The Ravens, however, are still waiting to find out if Suggs can still bring it ON the field this season.

You know the circumstances. The 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year is 33 now and coming back from an Achilles tear that ended his 2015 season after less than four quarters. Since it was his second Achilles tear in four years and Suggs himself had previously proclaimed he was "on the back nine" as a player, there's doubt about what he's got left.

Nonetheless, the Ravens are counting on him in a big way. At their end-of-season press conference last January, the team's decision-makers fingered Suggs' season-ending injury as the epicenter of the earthquake that shook the Ravens in 2015. "The domino (effect) was greater than I could have anticipated," said Owner Steve Bisciotti, who added that getting a healthy Suggs back could go a long way toward making 2016 better.

Is it smart to stake so much on Suggs' recovery or are the Ravens chasing fool's gold by expecting him to make such a difference as a thirtysomething coming back from a major injury?

Having seen his approach to coming back in 2016, I think it's fair to expect a lot from him … within reason.

He wasn't in great shape when he returned to Baltimore in the spring after months of rehab, but he has worked himself into what appears to be prime physical shape. On Tuesday, at his second training camp practice, he participated in "live" scrimmages for the first time in months and exhibited plenty of burst and quickness.

"He did more today than he did yesterday, and he's probably going to do more tomorrow than he did today," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said after Tuesday's practice.

The question of whether he can attain his former level won't be answered until the regular season begins next month, but let's just say signs are trending in the direction the Ravens hoped.

Having said that, though, it's unfair for anyone to expect the dominating sackmaster Suggs of his prime to reappear. As much as he would love everyone to believe only Kryptonite can bring him down, age and injuries must be factored in.

First and foremost, Suggs should be counted on to set a firm edge against the run, an underrated aspect of his game for years. Many experts thought sacks were what the Ravens missed most when he went down last season, and maybe that was true, but his absence also hurt the run defense, which allowed at least 4.0 yards per carry for the first time in franchise history.

As for the signature aspect of his game, I would say it's fair to expect him to harass quarterbacks and amass some sacks, but let's not get carried away. With Elvis Dumervil on the other side and a new generation of pass rushers inching up the depth chart, the defense seemingly is turning to more of a by-committee, scheme-oriented approach to pressuring quarterbacks.

Sacks have been the defining metric of Suggs' performance for so long that there's probably no way to change how he is perceived, but I would argue it's more important for him just to be durable and physical in 2016 rather than a guy measured strictly by sacks.

He was missed last season because he's one of the few guys on the team's defensive front who can be a difference maker on first and second downs as well as third down.

Sure, the Ravens are gambling by banking on him to come back and do his thing, but he's 33, not 40, and already nearly a year removed from his latest injury. I'd say the Ravens have a real shot at getting what they want from Suggs in 2016.

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