Suggs Leaves Uplifting Message For Ravens Nation
Terrell Suggs' message after his season-ending Achilles injury perfectly exemplifies why he's the emotional leader of the Ravens locker room. It also demonstrates the void he leaves behind.
"Absolute shock," is how The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec described players' reaction in the post-game locker room when they learned Suggs was done for the year. ESPN's Jamison Hensley said some were "visibly shaken" and "choked up" when talking about it.
I imagine the reaction throughout Ravens Nation wasn't too different.
So T-Sizzle took to Twitter to offer the comfort and vision that perhaps only he could give.
While on a smaller level, Suggs' message reminded me of Ray Lewis' inspiring message to his team after the Ravens' devastating loss the AFC championship game in Foxboro after Lee Evans dropped a game-winning touchdown pass and Billy Cundiff missed a game-tying field goal. And it was Suggs who took over that role as emotional leader after Lewis retired.
"He's the war daddy," Herm Edwards said of Suggs on ESPN last night. "When Ray Lewis leaves, who's able to take the mantle? This guy was able to do that. I'm not saying he's Ray Lewis, he's a different player, but he has that emotion."
"That's an emotional hit [for a city all about defense]," added NFL Network's Steve Mariucci. "Not just a physical, next man up, because the next man is going to be the backup and he's going to do his best. But it's an emotional hit for that football team."
Fellow NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders said there's a 'next man up' cliché in the NFL, but there is no next man up when it comes to replacing Suggs from a leadership standpoint. After Lewis, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata all left, Suggs was the undisputed leader.
"The old guard is now gone with Suggs done for 2015," wrote WNST's Luke Jones. "Seismic changes to the Ravens defense in a few years."
But here's the thing: Baltimore will be OK.
That's what Suggs suggests with his message. And that's what experts are saying, too.
"Because this defense is still pretty darn good," Mariucci said. "They held a Peyton Manning offense to no offense. That's amazing."
Added Sanders: "You will not replace him, but Baltimore will move on. … What I do know is they have a great head coach. Ozzie Newsome is second to none in acquiring personnel. So they will be OK."
Should Ravens Call Dwight Freeney? Other Free Agents?
OK, so while there may not be an emotional replacement for a leader like Suggs, there has to be a physical body taking his spot.
Suggs and Dumervil combined for 29 sacks last season, 4.5 more than any other pass-rushing tandem in the NFL. They also destroyed the Ravens' previous sack record for teammates, set by Trevor Pryce and Adalius Thomas in 2006 with 24. Not to mention, the Ravens lost Pernell McPhee via free agency.
"Dumervil is by himself," said former Chargers running back and NFL Network analyst LaDainian Tomlinson. "He has no Robin on the other side. … In this case, T-Sizzle is Batman."
Well, Dumervil's next Robin will likely be a combination of players, including Courtney Upshaw, rookie Za'Darius Smith and Albert McClellan, who can convert back to outside linebacker. Smith was a healthy scratch yesterday, which "doesn't inspire a ton of confidence," wrote Jones.
The Ravens could also look to the free-agent market to bring in new blood with a reported $4 million in salary cap space.
"[T]here's not a lot available on the free agent market," wrote The Sun's Jon Meoli.
Former Colts linebacker Dwight Freeney, 35, was the most popular name thrown around last night, including by Meoli, Hensley and CSNBaltimore.com's Bo Smolka. Meoli also added other veterans like John Abraham, Lance Briggs and Philip Wheeler, but said "each is in at least some stage of retirement."
"Freeney is the best option, and it's still not an ideal situation because Freeney is 35 and hasn't had double-digit sacks since 2010," wrote Hensley. "The Ravens have made a living off of signing aging veterans who have something to prove. It goes back to Rod Woodson, Shannon Sharpe, Steve McNair and even Owen Daniels last season.
"A team with Super Bowl aspirations can't hope a young player can make an impact. The Ravens made a mistake in 2013 when they traded away wide receiver Anquan Boldin and never adequately replaced him."
Speculation On Suggs' Retirement Begins
It may be a while until we hear from Suggs, but when we do, one of the first questions reporters will ask is about his football future.
After Suggs acknowledged this summer that he's on the "back nine" of his career, the chatter is alive and well.
"This will lead to speculation whether Suggs played his last game," wrote Hensley.
"Knowing Suggs, he won't want to end his career with an injury. Ray Lewis felt the same way and came back from an injury just in time to lead the Ravens' Super Bowl run in 2012. Suggs won't be able to do that this year. We'll see how his rehab goes and how he feels," our own John Eisenberg wrote.
Ravens Need Playmaker On Offense
When is Breshad Perriman going to return?
As if that question wasn't already a big one, it just got a whole lot bigger after the Ravens put up a total of 117 passing yards in Denver. Without a deep threat, the Broncos defense was able to sit on all the underneath routes and prevent completions.
"Without anybody to stretch the field, Ravens will deal with this all year," tweeted Zrebiec.
It's not a good sign when your fullback and running back lead the team in receptions, as Kyle Juszczyk and Justin Forsett had two receptions each. The next in line were Marlon Brown, Crockett Gillmore and Steve Smith Sr. with two apiece. The No. 2 receiver, Kamar Aiken, had one catch for a 1-yard loss.
"Kamar Aiken was nowhere in sight," wrote Baltimore Beatdown's Kyle Barber. "I had to ask a co-worker if he even played."
"The preseason concerns about the Ravens' lack of speed on offense were proven legitimate," added Zrebiec. "This team needs Maxx Williams to grow up fast and they need Breshad Perriman to return. Until those things happen, teams will copy the Broncos' game plan and the Ravens will struggle to put up points."
'Horrific' Day For Flacco, But's He's Not The Only One
Joe Flacco's elite status took a hit last night.
The play Mike Florio and Peter King were referring to was, of course, the pick-six that largely changed the game in the Broncos' favor and led to the Ravens' first loss of the season.
Flacco was already having a bad day (his 38.2 rating was his single-game lowest since 2011) with little protection and little success moving the ball. But he just needed to be turnover-free after cornerback Jimmy Smith snagged a pick-six and put the Ravens ahead in the third quarter.
"There's no explanation for Flacco throwing that pass over the middle that was returned 51 yards for an interception by Aqib Talib," wrote Hensley. "It was either a poor decision or a bad route run by Steve Smith. Either way, the costly turnover turned a bad day into a horrific one for the Ravens' offense."
Still, Hensley was quick to say that not all the blame can be put on Flacco.
"This wasn't just a bad game for the quarterback. This was an entire breakdown by the Ravens offense," he wrote.
"The Ravens' wide receivers couldn't get open, and their most-trusted receiver Steve Smith dropped a winning touchdown in the end zone. There was no running game until the final drive, and running back Justin Forsett finished with his fifth-worst rushing total (43 yards) of his 19-game Baltimore career. The offensive line failed to protect Flacco, who was hit on 17 of his 34 dropbacks (50 percent). That's tied for the second-highest percentage in Flacco's eight-year career."
Jimmy Smith Eases Concerns
The bright side of the day was the Ravens defense, which went from giving up an NFL record seven touchdown passes the last time it was in Denver to zero touchdowns Sunday.
And the star of the show was cornerback Jimmy Smith, who signed a reported $40 million contract extension this offseason, with an impressive pick-six and his first career touchdown.
"It took Smith only one game to remind everyone how much he was missed last season, and to make everyone feel a little better about the Ravens' much-maligned secondary," wrote Zrebiec.
"Smith spent much of the game shadowing Thomas, who didn't have a catch of more than 11 yards. But the Ravens cornerback was also quick to come up in run support and made a couple of tackles close to the line of scrimmage. If there was any doubt that Smith was back from a Lisfranc sprain that ended his 2014 season after eight games and required surgery, the 27-year-old erased it."