"The Competition" is a BaltimoreRavens.com series that breaks down every position leading up to training camp.
Terrell Suggs (6-foot-3, 260 pounds, 10th season): There's no exact
timetable for when or if Suggs will return to play this season after injuring his Achilles tendon. He estimated his*return by November or December, but later backed off that timeline. It's still too early to tell. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year is a force in the *pass rush and stopping the run, and his absence (for however long) will be a challenge.
Paul Kruger (6-4, 265, fourth season): After two years of getting little playing time, Kruger made his presence felt last year with 5.5 sacks primarily in pass-rush duty. With Suggs down and the departure of Ja
rret Johnson in free agency, it's finally Kruger's chance to start. He has to show he can hold up as a three-down linebacker and against the run, something he prided himself on in college.
Sergio Kindle (6-3, 250, third season): The start of Kindle's career was difficult. He missed his entire rookie year after fracturing his skull, then spent his sophomore season getting back in football shape, coping with a
hearing deficiency and trying to learn the playbook. Kindle feels like he's done all three, and now is his chance to finally play football again.
Albert McClellan (6-2, 255, second season): After spending his rookie year on the practice squad, McClellan became a key role player last year. He started against San Francisco when Ray Lewis and Dannell Ellerbe were out. McClellan was active every game, finished with 19 tackles and led the team in special-teams stops. He's a versatile linebacker who is a sure tackler and has pass-rush potential.
Chavis Williams (6-3, 240, second season): The former undrafted free agent from Alabama has shown athletic promise, but has yet to get much time. He started on the practice squad last year and was activated for five games. He ultimately landed on injured reserve (foot) on Dec. 21. Williams returned to the field for offseason Organized Team Activities and minicamp.
Courtney Upshaw (6-2, 272, Alabama): The Ravens' top 2012 draft pick is a physical run-stuffer and gets after the quarterback. He played a very similar role to what Suggs does for the Ravens on the Crimson Tide's national championship defense. Upshaw was very impressive during the offseason, and is learning to become more of a drop-back linebacker.
With Suggs down, there isn't too much competition for the starting jobs. Kruger and Upshaw are widely expected to step into those positions until Suggs is able to return. It's just a matter of whether they play SAM or Will (they have played both during offseason practices). It will be interesting to see who starts between the two once Suggs is back.
The main training camp competition will be between Kindle, McClellan and Williams for a spot on the roster. McClellan has his special-teams prowess in his favor, which is a large advantage. Kindle and McClellan, who can both be speed rushers off the outside in certain packages, will likely compete at Will for the final outside linebacker position on the active roster. Both could find a spot until Suggs returns.