When the Baltimore Ravens take the field tomorrow in Cleveland, they will be doing so a bit short-handed at the critical pass-rushing position. Starter Elvis Dumervil is still trying to recover from offseason surgery, having already been ruled out again for week two after missing the season opener as well.
In addition to Dumervil, however, it also seems likely that the Ravens will be without second-year pass rusher Za’Darius Smith, who played a key role last season after Terrell Suggs was lost for the year. In his rookie season, he recorded 5.5 sacks as a rotational outside linebacker, and was expected to find a bigger role as a pass rusher this year.
Baltimore recorded two sacks in its low-scoring season opener, with one of those two sacks coming from Suggs, though he did not overall have a great game in his first game back. Albert McClellan started opposite Suggs, and played reasonably well, but did not get on the stat sheet with a sack.
Smith is officially listed as questionable, but he did not practice for the entire week. Being unable to practice the entire week is not good for a veteran player, but is almost a virtual certainty to be a game day inactive for a young player, and that will leave the Ravens without two of their top three pass rushers assuming that he is unable to go.
And Suggs is certainly going to have his hands full with Joe Thomas along the left side of the Browns’ offensive line, although Baltimore does move the veteran edge rusher around the formation every so often throughout the course of a typical game, and may do so more frequently than normal in order to compensate for the situation that they are facing with injuries at the position.
There is even a mention of getting former Steelers—and Bengals—outside linebacker Chris Carter into the defensive rotation due to the injuries. Carter stuck on the Ravens’ roster this preseason due to his performance on special teams, which is the same reason that he stuck around for a couple of years in Pittsburgh.
Of course, like the Steelers, and many other 3-4 teams, the Ravens are no longer relying so much on getting to the quarterback around the edge, and one of their two sacks in the season opener did come from defensive end/tackle Timmy Jernigan, whom they drafted right after Pittsburgh drafted Stephon Tuitt three years ago.
Still, the Ravens will certainly be hoping that their offense can produce more than the 13 points that they managed to muster in their week one victory, which was primarily fueled by a 66-yard touchdown pass. The offense was otherwise fairly stagnant through much of the game, and with the pass rush on the other side of the ball ailing, even against the Browns, they may need more from the other side of the field.