OWINGS MILLS — Terrell Suggs has identified the frustrating problem that has continually plagued him during an enigmatic first half of the season.
In a nutshell, it’s him.
The Baltimore Ravens’ outside linebacker has displayed flashes of his old Pro Bowl form throughout this season, but never on a consistent basis.
Sometimes, Suggs bursts past opposing offensive tackles and smashes into the quarterback as he did against the New England Patriots when he separated Tom Brady from the football as Dwan Edwards pounced on the fumble for a touchdown.
Many times, though, Suggs is stalemated at the line of scrimmage as he gets stuck to a block against a less athletic blocker. Or he has gotten caught looking inside with running backs busting long outside runs at his expense.
By his own admission, he can play much better.
"It’s like night and day," Suggs said. "Some days, it’s just like I’ve got a team dialed in and I don’t second-guess anything I’m doing. I can play fully aggressive the whole time out there. Then, there are sometimes it’s like, ‘Well, when I did this last time, he popped it on the outside so maybe I don’t play there.’
"Some run plays creased us, and it was my fault. Sometimes, you can be your own thing that hurts you. It’s you. It’s like knowing too much of the game when really all you need to do is play the thing that’s really happening in front of you. Some days, it’s been 50-50 and that’s really uncharacteristic of me."
Suggs ranks second on the team in tackles behind middle linebacker Ray Lewis with 41 tackles. He ranks third on the team with just 3 1/2 sacks, though.
The three-time Pro Bowl selection ranks second on the franchise’s all-time list with 56 1/2 career sacks. And he leads the team all-time with 20 forced fumbles.
"Terrell, the key thing is consistency," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "The sky’s the limit for him. You’ve seen him over the years, and you’ve seen him this year play tremendous football.
"I think what we’re looking for, and I know he’s looking for the same thing, is him to play every snap as well as he can. That’s what we’ve got to get him to do. I think he understands that. He’s that important to us."
The Ravens are 35-13 when Suggs registers a sack and 10-0 when he posts two or more.
Signed to a blockbuster $62.5 million contract in July, Suggs has had more than a few conversations with the coaching staff about playing at an optimum level every snap.
"Coach, he sits me down and he’s like, "You killed this guy, you killed this guy, then this next play this team ran this and then you didn’t do what you did the week before. What changed here?’ So, it’s just like, ‘Well, coach, I did this, I did that. There isn’t any situation that I’ve been in where I haven’t excelled. I’ve been in every situation and I’ve had some success at it.
"Then, I’ll be in the same situation and I don’t have as much success. So, it can be a matchup. It can be a scheme that day or the play that’s actually called. A person that really knows football can really understand something like that, but sometimes you just play things different and some teams you play different because of what they do better."
And the hope around the Ravens’ training complex is that Suggs will launch a strong second half by exploiting the Cleveland Browns’ offensive line on Monday night.
Suggs has 11 career sacks and seven forced fumbles against the Browns, his most against any NFL team.
In a season where the Ravens have lost four games by a total of 21 points, a strong pass rush provided by Suggs could give a major boost to a team searching for its identity and fighting to remain in playoff contention.
"I guess I was kind of wrong, that 50-50 is kind of harsh," Suggs said. "I don’t think it was 50-50, maybe 70-30. I’m not going to give you that satisfaction and be like, ‘I was playing 50-50.’ I would say 70-30, some games dominating the guy in front of me and some games a guy just position-blocked me or got me in the right position to be successful in it."