Terrell Suggs rebounds big in 2010
December, 23, 2010
By James Walker | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Rob CarrTerrell Suggs has bounced back from a lackluster 2009 season to lead the Ravens with 11 sacks.His guarantee this past spring was bold. But outspoken Baltimore Ravens defensive end/linebacker Terrell Suggs has never shied away from bold statements.
Coming off a season in which Suggs posted a career-low 4.5 sacks, the three-time Pro Bowler put a ton of pressure on himself at the start of Baltimore's offseason program.
"Rest assured, it will never happen again," Suggs said of repeating last year's production.
It was the first time Suggs admitted publicly to what media and fans were discussing all last season. The usually dominant Suggs simply didn't look himself in 2009.
During the summer of 2009, Suggs and his representation had lengthy and at times tense contract negotiations with the Ravens before hammering out a six-year, $63 million extension. Suggs showed up above his usual playing weight and never got on track.
But the motor and fire have returned, as Suggs leads the playoff-bound Ravens (10-4) with 11 sacks this season, which is tied for sixth in the NFL. He has at least one sack in six of the past seven games and is likely headed to his fourth Pro Bowl in eight seasons.
What changed with Suggs?
"I wouldn't say it was a lack of focus. I just wasn't in love in football," Suggs admitted in a conference call with the Cleveland media. "Because of the contract negotiations, it seemed more like a job than a game that I love. It is, but I guess it kind of took its toll on me."
The difference in Suggs is easy to see. For long stretches this season, he has been Baltimore's best defensive player and difficult to block against the run and pass.
Baltimore's desperately needed a bounce-back year from Suggs. The Ravens are great against the run -- No. 5 in the NFL -- but pass-rushing and pass defense have been inconsistent. The Ravens are ranked No. 19 in the league with 27 sacks.
Despite often facing double-teams, Suggs accounts for 41 percent of Baltimore's sacks. The next-closest player is defensive lineman Haloti Ngata (5.5 sacks).
"He just came back in great shape, and I think it's really made a big difference," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said of Suggs. "He got his weight down to 260, and the quickness is back and the explosiveness is back. But he's always been a very good all-around player. I think he's one of the better all-around linebackers in the league."
Week 16 could be another big game for Suggs. He's been tremendous over the years against the Cleveland Browns (5-9), who will host the Ravens on Sunday. In 15 career games against the Browns, Suggs has 70 tackles, 12 sacks and a 44-yard interception return for a touchdown. His sack total against Cleveland is his highest versus any team.
Cleveland is struggling at right tackle with starter John St. Clair. So expect Suggs to move around to try to exploit that favorable matchup. Browns Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas is on the other side and also will see plenty of Suggs.
"We've [the AFC North] got two of the most outstanding outside linebackers in the game in Terrell Suggs and James Harrison," Thomas said. "It's always a good battle between the two of us. It's going to be back and forth, and it's going to be fun."
Suggs has more than doubled his sack total from a year ago and needs 1.5 more sacks in the final two games to set a career season high. Suggs said it would be a nice accomplishment in his eighth season, but he has his sights set on bigger goals.
"It's all fun and it's good and all, but I've had good seasons in the past with nothing to show for it, and so it pretty much just came and went," Suggs explained. "I'm really focused on trying to get in the playoffs and trying to get a chance to hold the Lombardi [Trophy] at the end of the season."