Veteran Defenders Fresh For Stretch Run


Terrell Suggs seems to be getting stronger as the season progresses, and that's by design.

The veteran defender has 7.5 sacks and 25 tackles in the last five games, and he's a big reason the Ravens are 4-1 during that stretch. Suggs is playing some of his best football late in the season, and that could partly be because he's fresh for the stretch run.

Suggs has played fewer snaps compared to previous years, and he's had one of the strongest seasons of his career.

"That's been a conscious effort," Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said about rotating outside linebackers. "We have four guys that play out there. So why not play them all and have guys fresh at the end of the game?"

Suggs has averaged 54.5 snaps per game this year, according to Pro Football Focus, which are about three fewer snaps than last season. Suggs' snap count per game this year is the lowest since at least 2007, which is the furthest back that PFF's records provide. He even played more in 2012 after coming back from a torn Achilles.

The same is true for veteran defensive end Chris Canty, who is playing about five fewer snaps per game compared to last season. Canty also missed four games because of an infection in his wrist, so he avoided the wear and tear on his body from those contests.

The Ravens spell Canty by using a heavy rotation along the defensive line with young players like DeAngelo Tyson, Lawrence Guy, Brandon Williams and Timmy Jernigan.

"We do it up front, too," Pees said. "Those guys up front, that's a tough road."

The Ravens have one of the best defensive fronts in football, and the outside linebacker position may be the deepest on the team. That depth allows the Ravens to give their key veterans a few more plays off throughout games, and the results speak for themselves.

Elvis Dumervil leads the league with 17 sacks, Pernell McPhee is having the best season of his career and is on his way to a big contract, and Courtney Upshaw is known as an elite edge setter. The snaps have increased for Dumervil and McPhee this year, allowing Suggs to stay fresh.

"The only way you can ever do that is if you have a guy that you feel good enough that you can put in there and we're still going to function as the same defense," Pees said. "That situation is just the fact that we feel like we can play Pernell, we can play Elvis, we can play a bunch of guys. I think it's always good."

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