It's still 15 days until the Baltimore Ravens kick off their season at Denver, but the defending Super Bowl champions' offensive tackles already know their assignments against the Broncos won't be as formidable as last season.
Bryant McKinnie and Michael Oher aren't going to have to line up against Von Miller, the two-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher who will serve a six-game suspension under the NFL's substance-abuse policy. It should mean a more comfortable pocket for quarterback Joe Flacco.
The numbers show how devastating the loss of Miller will be on the Denver defense. Miller has accounted for almost one-third of the Broncos’ sacks over the past two seasons (30 of 92). He is also one of four players with at least 30 sacks in his first two seasons over the past 30 years, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
When you factor in the Ravens signing Elvis Dumervil as a free agent, the Broncos won't have two players who totaled 29.5 sacks last season. Instead of Miller and Dumervil, the Ravens will likely have to block Shaun Phillips and Robert Ayers. Even when the Broncos had Miller and Dumervil, they only got to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco once in the AFC divisional playoff round.
This is the second time a suspension affects a matchup with the Ravens in the first month of the season. Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has been suspended for two games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He led the Browns in receiving yards (805) and touchdown catches (5).
So, the Ravens avoid seeing the Broncos' best pass-rusher in Week 1 and the Browns' top receiver in Week 2.