Given that he’s the reigning Defensive Player of the Year – at least until Von Miller, J.J. Watt or Geno Atkins is crowned this postseason – I’m sure what I’m about to say won’t be well received by everyone. However as we head towards the postseason and the Ravens try to position themselves for a run at the Lombardi Trophy, one thing is becoming glaringly obvious with each passing week: Terrell Suggs isn’t effective in his current role.
Now, let’s put that into context. This is a guy who has been one of the league’s most complete players in the past decade, a fearsome pass rusher who has been even better as an edge setter against the run. This season however, he’s playing hurt. The pain he must be playing through, from both Achilles and biceps injuries, must be excruciating, and the fact that he’s even on the field at all tells you everything you need to know about the man known as “T-Sizzle.” However, in keeping Suggs on the field when he’s not at 100%, the Ravens are limiting two players who have impressed more and more as the season has gone on.
Through Week 16 no outside linebacker in the NFL is generating pressure at a better rate than Paul Kruger. One of the Signature Stats used at Pro Football Focus is Pass Rushing Productivity (PRP), which takes into account the number of pressures generated by a player, weighted towards sacks, compared with the number of times they rush the passer. Using this stat, Kruger leads all 3-4 outside linebackers with a PRP Rating of 12.0, coming from 51 total pressures from 338 pass rushing snaps. DeMarcus Ware, Aldon Smith and Ryan Kerrigan have all generated more pressure but all have done so on at least 68 more pass rushing snaps.
More importantly however, he has been far more productive than Suggs. With just 16 total pressures from 223 pass rushing snaps, Suggs has a PRP Rating of just 5.6. That’s even lower than rookie Courtney Upshaw, who has a PRP Rating of 5.7, with 21 total pressures from 287 pass rushing snaps. It’s been well noted that Upshaw hasn’t delivered much in the way of pass rush this season, but he’s still doing so at a slightly better rate than Suggs. Where he is well above him however, is in his play against the run.
Using another of Pro Football Focus’ Signature Stats, Run Stop Percentage, only Dallas’ Anthony Spencer is doing more against the run on his time on the field than Upshaw. Run Stop Percentage is calculated by working out the number of solo tackles that count as a “defensive stop” in relation to the number of snaps played against the run.
On the field for 289 snaps against the run, 30 of Upshaw’s 35 solo tackles have resulted in a defensive stop, giving him a Run Stop Percentage of 10.4%. Suggs has played 137 snaps against the run, with eight of his 13 solo tackles resulting in a defensive stop and a Run Stop Percentage of 5.8%.
Compare those numbers to where Suggs was a year ago when he was named the best defensive player in football, you’ll see he has a PRP Rating of 9.6 and a Run Stop Percentage of 6.9%, and it becomes obvious, through no fault of his own, that Suggs isn’t where he needs to be. Yet he’s still on the field more than his teammates at the position. In the games where he has been available to play this season, Suggs has seen 413 snaps on defense while Upshaw and Kruger have seen 332 and 379, respectively. In a year where both are excelling in separate aspects of their game, and when Suggs has struggled through some fairly substantial injuries, that just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Watching him play, I don’t think Terrell Suggs has it in him to “take a play off,” so why not limit his snaps to obvious passing situations? That would maximise his skill set, while keeping him fresher, and allowing both Kruger and Upshaw to shine like they have. Make no mistake about it; with the Ravens defense improving as the season has gone on, the play of those two has been key.
Suggs will be back to his best next season, of that much I’m sure, but with the Ravens aiming to celebrate a Super Bowl win in early February, it’s time they put the players that are performing the best on the field more often.