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Ravens News 10/26: Ageless wonders, sending the blitz and more

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New Orleans Saints v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

The Ageless Wonders: Terrell Suggs and Julius Peppers - Ryan Mink

Suggs is 36. Peppers is 38. Yet they’re still producing sacks like a couple of 20-year-olds.

Suggs is tied for the Ravens’ team lead with 5.5 this season, which puts him just outside the NFL’s top 10. Peppers posted 11 sacks last year and has notched strip-sacks in back-to-back games.

They’ve been getting it done for a long, long time. Peppers is the NFL’s active sacks leader (156 ½), which ranks him fourth all-time behind Bruce Smith (200), Reggie White (198) and Kevin Greene (160). Suggs has the second-most sacks among active players (131), which is 15th all-time.

“Those guys are just on a different level athletically,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “There aren’t very many of those types of human beings walking around on the planet.”

“Peppers and Terrell, they’re the same in that they’re naturally born to play football,” veteran Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda added. “Guys like that who are freaks of nature can play a long time.”

Peppers was the Defensive Rookie of the Year back in 2002 and Suggs received the same honor the following year. After long and productive careers, both are probable Hall of Famers.

Cooking up a recipe for cooling the Ravens defense - Bryan Strickland

HANDLE THE BLITZ

The Ravens return all 11 starters from a defense that ranked a relatively disappointing 12th in the NFL last season, but they did switch up the lineup in one significant way – promoting longtime linebackers coach Don [Martindale] to defensive coordinator.

“I think Coach Martindale has done a nice job as their coordinator,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. “He’s a very aggressive play-caller.”

In the 11-sack showing against the Titans, none of Baltimore’s five second-half sacks came from a defensive lineman, and just one came from a rush linebacker in the Ravens’ 3-4 scheme. Rush linebackers Terrell Suggs and Za’Darius Smith are tied for 11th in the league with 5.5 sacks each, but no other Raven ranks in the top 50 because Baltimore has an astounding 13 players with at least one sack.

A fast start might help stave off the relentless rush, but the Ravens under [Martindale] aren’t afraid to “pin their ears back” in any situation. Six of their sacks against the Titans came in the first half.

“The concern is just controlling the blitz,” quarterback Cam Newton said. “Those guys move around. They disguise so much, and they’ve got guys that play fast, that understand what they’re doing. When you have as much veteran leadership as they have on that team, those guys know exactly what they want to do and how to attack the offense. That’s an added advantage.”

With all three top cornerbacks - Marlon Humphrey, Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith - nicked up with lower body injuries, Martindale may opt for a more conservative game plan. The Panthers offensive line is 12th best with a 6.2-percent adjusted sack rate.

It’s Chris Wormley’s Time to Shine - Clifton Brown

“He has progressed in a lot of different ways, and really just in the last three weeks you’ve really seen him take off a little bit,” Martindale said. “I said we need to put some gunpowder in his food a little bit, coming back from his rookie year. He’s playing a physical brand of football. He’s playing like a Raven now.”

“It’s definitely fun being out there with the guys, getting more snaps, coaches relying on me to more to be out there and make plays,” Wormley said. “I think my approach was a little different this year. I really didn’t know what to expect my first year. This year, I’m a little more comfortable in the scheme and around the guys. Not afraid to make a mistake. So I think the combination of getting older, getting comfortable with the scheme, has helped me a lot this year.”

“That’s been huge for us this year, we call it hockey shifts,” Wormley said. “Every three or four plays, we’re all trying to get in and have a fresh body out there. I think (Terrell) Suggs turned 36 a couple of weeks ago. He can’t be out there playing 60 plays, because we definitely need him out there in the fourth quarter to rush that passer. We’re all just trying to find ways to stay healthy, stay fresh. We’re doing it with the hockey shifts, and I’m glad to be part of it.”

Wormley’s snap share has increased tremendously from his rookie season (11-percent) to this year (40-percent).

NFL Week 8 CBS Baltimore Ravens @ Carolina Panthers Preview - Pro Football Focus

Weddle locking down the slot

Safety Eric Weddle hasn’t allowed much when he’s been asked to defend the slot this year. His 0.09 yards per slot coverage snap is good for second among safeties.

Pierce thriving on the interior

Michael Pierce is playing at an elite level this year. He’ll be looking to keep it up in Week 8.

Newton deep ball decline

Quarterback Cam Newton has seen a steady decline in production from throws of 20-plus yards downfield over recent years.

Kuechly doing it all

Luke Kuechly has long been among the league’s best linebackers. The Ravens better watch out for him.

PFF has graded Michael Pierce as the fifth best interior lineman in the NFL this season. Kuechly is their second best overall linebacker with a 3rd best 13-percent run stop percentage and 9th best passer rating allowed.

Panthers vs Ravens defensive preview: The Panthers need to shut down an underrated Ravens offense - Jonathan DeLong

Get an interception or two off Joe Flacco. Since his Super Bowl run in 2012, the Ravens quarterback has built a reputation on questionable decision making and sporadic accuracy. The interceptions haven’t come as often this year, but the potential for defenses to capitalize on mistakes is still there. Flacco is the eighth most aggressive quarterback in the league this year when it comes to throwing into tight windows, meaning he’s throwing to covered receivers often. On top of that, among quarterbacks who have started all their team’s games this season, only Sam Darnold and Blake Bortles have a larger negative discrepancy between their expected and actual completion percentage, according to NFL’s next gen stats. He’s throwing into tight windows and he’s missing throws. The defense needs to make plays on those balls to set up the offense.

Protecting the ball should be a top priority for Joe Flacco. Two of his four interceptions this season came in Week 2, the only game where the Ravens lost by more than a field goal.