Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has said that the biggest improvements a football team can make are between Week 1 and Week 2.
Baltimore's Terrell Suggs is a key player to watch in that development.
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Suggs is a versatile linebacker who can rush the quarterback as well as drop back in pass coverage, which is primarily how he was used against Cincinnati in the Ravens' home opener on Sept. 7.
In that game, Suggs recorded eight tackles (five solo) and broke up two passes, but never made it to quarterback Carson Palmer for a sack.
"He played well, but I think he realized that there were some plays he could have made, and a couple of things he could have done a bit differently," outside linebackers coach Mike Pettine of Suggs' play.
Suggs will test his week-to-week progression against a Houston Texans offensive front that gave up five sacks to the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense last weekend, three of which to linebacker James Harrison.
"Sizzle," as he is sometimes referred to around the Ravens complex, would like to pick up where Harrison left off.
He had three sacks for 24 yards the last time the Ravens played the Texans at M&T Bank Stadium on Dec. 4, 2005. Baltimore narrowly won the game, 16-15.
That day, Suggs lined up against Texans quarterback David Carr who was protected on his left side by Milford Brown at guard and Chester Pitts at tackle.
Today, Pitts remains the only constant in the scheme, and he is joined by rookie left tackle Duane Brown as they protect quarterback Matt Schaub.
But Suggs knows that his past success has no bearing on the present.
"In this league, everybody gets better. If you had a good game against them last time, they'll do everything in their power to make sure you're not trying to have one [again]," Suggs commented.
"I'm just kind of anxious to see how they're going to block it up this week, especially with the game James Harrison had. It's going to be interesting. But [when] it's tough on everybody else, [it's] just right for us."
Pettine thinks this game has the potential to be a breakout performance for Suggs.
"He wants…to be able to win and have his sack production and the big plays that come along with it," said Pettine. "I think this week sets up well for him. It will be a good test for him.
"They have some big tackles, and one of them is a rookie, so [Suggs is] looking forward to it. But at the same time I know Houston's not naïve enough to think they can put a guy on an island, so I think he's got to expect getting double-teamed a little bit, and maybe some of the pass plays, the ball will come out a little quicker than it normally does."
Quick connections between Schaub and Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson also concern Suggs, who thinks the defense needs to focus on pressuring the quarterback.
"It's very important that we do the same thing that we kind of did last week with Carson Palmer," he said. "You don't want to give any quarterback in this league an ample amount of time to find his receivers, especially when you've got Andre Johnson."
A fast release from Schaub could hurt the Ravens' sack numbers, though.
"If the ball's coming out quick, don't expect the sack totals," Ravens assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "It's just like last week: I think we pressured [Carson] Palmer quite a bit, but we only had two sacks."
While having the defensive stat numbers is nice, a win is better, and Suggs is willing to be used in whatever role can best accomplish that purpose – whether it's being in a position capitalize on opportunities to take Schaub to the ground or to drop back in pass coverage.
"He is all about winning, and hopefully whatever it takes," said Pettine. "But he doesn't care if he goes through the year [in pass coverage]. He'll be upset, but winning is more important to him, his productivity is a secondary thing for him."