New Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees hasn't even gotten his players on the field for one offseason workout and already faces a big issue: How do you adjust to the loss of Terrell Suggs?
Suggs said he partially tore his Achilles tendon in a conditioning drill and likely will miss half the season, which will force decisions about the Ravens' scheme this season.
Last year, Baltimore had one of the most aggressive defenses in the NFL. The Ravens ranked ninth in blitzing 36.4 percent of the time, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The question now is whether they need to blitz even more.
Suggs was the team's best pass-rusher when the Ravens didn't blitz (which means sending four or fewer players after the quarterback). He recorded 12 of his 14 sacks last season in that defensive formation, which was tied for fourth in the NFL. In fact, Suggs contributed 20 of Baltimore's 47 sacks when the Ravens sent four or fewer pass-rushers during the past two seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Suggs' 20 sacks ranks sixth in the league and would tie him with the entire New Orleans Saints defense.
What these numbers say is Suggs generated his own pass rush. The Ravens didn't have to blitz, putting more pressure on their secondary, for Suggs to hit the quarterback. Now, without Suggs, Baltimore should think about sending five defenders more. Instead of being No. 9 in blitzes like last season, the Ravens might have to rank in the top five to produce the same amount of pressure.
In 2010, the Ravens recorded a franchise-low 27 sacks under defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who had a more conservative style. Part of the reason the Ravens didn't blitz more that year was the lack of confidence in their cornerbacks holding up in single coverage.
Last season, Baltimore was tied for third in the NFL with 48 sacks under coordinator Chuck Pagano, who took more risks than Mattison. The Ravens also had more of a comfort zone with cornerbacks Lardarius Webb (who was another year removed from ACL surgery), Cary Williams (who was more physical than Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr) and rookie first-round pick Jimmy Smith.
Now, Pees has to figure out how the Ravens come close to that number of sacks without Suggs. If Suggs misses the first half of the 2012 season -- which is his current timetable -- the Ravens would face these quarterbacks without him (in order of schedule): Andy Dalton, Michael Vick, Tom Brady, Tony Romo and Matt Schaub.