Terrell Suggs' absence a 'love-hate thing' for Bengals' Andrew Whitworth


CINCINNATI -- A big part of Andrew Whitworth wants to see Terrell Suggs in his Baltimore Ravens uniform on Sunday afternoon.

But then there's the rational part of Whitworth. It's the part that says, sure, as much as renewing acquaintances with one of the NFL's top defenders might get the competitive juices flowing, be glad you and him don't have to meet this time around. Enjoy this Suggs-free season, that side of Whitworth pleads.

"It's a love-hate thing," said Whitworth, the Bengals' longtime Pro Bowl left tackle who entered the year expecting two more battles with the outside linebacker. "You hate the guy because he's such a good football player and he makes so many plays when you play against their team. But you love the guy because, man, he's what football's all about. He plays every snap, he plays it physically."

A six-time Pro Bowler, Suggs was lost for the entire season with a Week 1 Achilles tear.

"Physically" is exactly the way Suggs has stalked his offensive prey for much of his 13-year career.

A 3-4 outside linebacker, Suggs has regularly played like a 4-3 loose cannon at middle linebacker. Quite simply, he often seems to be everywhere on the football field. Running backs haven't much liked seeing him chase them to the sidelines over the years. Quarterbacks have flat-out feared seeing his No. 55 flash through line-of-scrimmage gaps as they step into passing pockets.

And coaches? Well, for them, Mondays through Saturdays are the days they most hate having to contend with Suggs.

"He understands your offense," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "You watch him play week in and week out, you can see that he understands the opponent."

Perhaps that explains the double-digit sack totals he has had in his last four full seasons.

Or maybe it's because of something else.

"You see some of these guys that lead in sacks every year but they only play on third down or only play in certain situations," Whitworth said. "He's one of these guys, every snap he's in the football game, making a difference. He's a difference maker."

Baltimore could have used some of Suggs' difference-making ability at Oakland last Sunday. Against a Raiders team that didn't even generate 250 yards of total offense versus the Bengals in Week 1, the Suggs-less Ravens allowed 448 yards. The same Raiders that scored 13 points -- after being down 33-0 in the fourth quarter -- against Cincinnati, put 37 on Baltimore.

But wait, there's more.

In their first game playing without Suggs, the Ravens pressured the quarterback on just 17 percent of his dropbacks, according to ESPN's Kevin Seifert. That ranked 24th in the NFL in Week 2. They also recorded sacks on just 2.1 percent of those dropbacks. The week before, when Suggs at least started the game against the Broncos, the Ravens pressured the quarterback on 22.7 percent of his dropbacks, and had a sack on 9.1 percent of those. It's clear in that one week that Sugg's absence had an affect on Baltimore's defense.

Even still, the Bengals believe Baltimore's front 7 that includes linebackers C.J. Mosley, Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw and Daryl Smith, poses a problem this weekend.

"Anytime you lose a player like that, it's a tough loss," Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said. "But there are different things that they've done to try to pick up from losing him. We just have to be ready for all of it."