I know many people are panicking right now, but there really is no reason too. This is one of the deepest defenses we have had in awhile and the next man will step up. Our defense is not built around one player and that is what makes our D so good. We have some of the leagues finest at all levels of the defense and I know they will help pick up the slack along with some of our younger players. While Terrell Suggs will be missed and can't be replaced individually, let me tell you why we will still have one of the top units in 2012.
1) Offense will be better:
While it's basically the same unit, the chemistry will be huge for the progression of our offense. Joe Flacco had a lot of new and young weapons to throw to last year and at times it caused some issues. The lockout hurt the situation even more since some of these young guys couldn't really get in a good off-season program. Still will the lack of chemistry, Flacco played his best when he was called on against the better teams in the league. He had a great playoff run and played some of his best games of the year against Pitt 2x, San Francisco, Houston, and Cincy 2x. I think Flacco and the offense takes another big step forward and that should relieve some stress off the D.
2) Kruger & Upshaw can put up similar numbers to Suggs & JJ:
I know some are thinking I am crazy, but let me explain. While Suggs was an animal and pulled out an amazing 14 sacks, his counter part only pulled out 2.5. I think Paul Kruger and Courtney Upshaw combined can pull a similar total number. People really underrate Kruger as a pass rusher. If you go back and watch his tape last year he consistently dominated his man. He had 5.5 sacks as a situational guy, but was constantly pressuring the QB when he didn't get to him or just missed out on a sack because someone else got there first. He has a big arsenal of moves and I think he takes over Suggs position as the top pass rusher. I won't be shocked to see a 9-11 sack season.
I think Upshaw will take over JJ's role and transition great there. U pshaw is already very good at stopping the run and has potential to be elite. He has NFL ready strength and I think is ready to contribute day one. He is a much more gifted pass rusher than JJ and will have a lot of one on one match-ups to work with on the other side. If he can play the run well and give us 4-6 sacks, which I think he can, he will have done his job.
3) Young pass rushers keep progressing:
I think the other young pass rushers keep progressing and that will bring great value to this team. Pernell McPhee is a monster. He constantly dominated his man and gave teams problems as a rookie. This can be seen at the end of the Bengals when he got two sacks and dominated Andrew Whitworth who is a very good LT in this league. He had no off-season last year and I would count on his progression to continue which will be huge. The other two are more question marks, but if we can get one to contribute as a situational pass rusher it will be huge. Michael McAdoo is a freak athletically. He hasn't played in some time after being suspended in college and IR'd last year, but he has all the tools. He played very well in his lone pre-season game last year and if he can bulk up this kid has some serious potential. Pagano said last year this kid can rush the passer in the NFL already, it's just the rest of his game and adding strength he needs to work on. The next is Sergio Kindle. This is a make or break year for him and he understands that. He's working hard everyday at the facility and is doing everything he can to fight back from his injury. He will have his opportunity and with his first off-season, maybe we get to see some of the guy we thought we drafted.
4) The rest of the D will just get better:
This is the strongest CB group that I can recall that we have had. Lardarius Webb played at an all-pro level last year and Jimmy Smith showed flashes of why Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome was so excited about him. Cary Williams filled in great as the #2 CB and played extremely well down the stretch. Then Danny Gorrer in his limited opportunities made the most of them. This group should be one of the best in the league and within the next few years could possibly be talking the best duo in football with Webb and Jimmy. The other reason I feel is I think we get more dominant years from Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody. Cody was his first year as a starter and played very well. This year I think he will make a name as one of the better NT's in the league. Ngata started fast last year, but tailed off a bit. Not to say he played bad, but not as dominant as years passed. Later on it was revealed that thigh injury gave him more problems than he let on and with a healthy Ngata I think he has a better year. Then of course Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will just keep doing their thing. There physical abilities have declined, but make no mistake that these are still two of the best at their positions and with Suggs going down will only motivate them further.
This is why I feel we still will have a dominant D. It's hilarious to hear outsiders talk about the aging Baltimore D. Really? The only people over 30 are Ed, Ray and Brendon Ayanbadejo. Everyone else is below 30 and we have some of the best young talent in this league. Like I said we will never be able to replace Suggs individually, but I think as a unit we wil pick up our falling soldier and show why we have one of the fiercest D's in the league.