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Suggs leaves a gap in the Ravens defense after winning the Defensive Player of the Year award last season
While the Ravens defense did not fair well statistically last season in terms of points per game (19th) and yards per game (28th), it has generally been regarded as one of the most fearsome defenses in the league.
And for good reason.
With players like Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata as staples, the overall team has largely been led on the defensive side of the ball.
Unfortunately for the Ravens, Lewis becomes an essential player this year after an injury to Suggs and the departure of fellow outside linebacker Jarret Johnson to the San Diego Chargers.
Suggs was placed on the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday, meaning he must sit out the first six weeks of the Ravens' season. He will likely miss even more time after tearing his Achilles tendon in April.
After spending his first nine seasons in Baltimore, Johnson signed a four-year deal with the Chargers.
Lewis has always been the centerpiece of the Ravens defense, calling the signals and leading in intensity. However, it will be difficult to replace the two starters on either side of him.
Suggs, who recorded a league-leading 14 sacks, was named the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. He accompanied his sack total with 70 tackles and two interceptions.
Johnson was regarded as a premier run-stopper from the outside edge, an area where the Baltimore defense actually excelled, allowing the second-least total rushing yards last season. He compiled 56 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Seeking to replace these two on the linebacker unit are Albert McClellan, Sergio Kindle, Courtney Upshaw, Paul Kruger and Brendon Ayanbadejo.
Kruger seems to be a favorite to take one of the outside positions, leaving McClellan, Kindle, and the rookie Upshaw to battle it out for the other starting job. Ayanbadejo has played a concentrated role on special teams in the past.
Jameel McClain plays the second inside linebacker position in the Ravens' 3-4 defense.
The Ravens defense will still be a frightening matchup for NFL offenses despite the loss of two key players, especially with Lewis directing traffic.