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Will there be many snaps left over for Courtney Upshaw?

On Wednesday, Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil, the two men whom the Ravens hope will become the most productive pass-rushing duo in the NFL, met the media together on a day in which no camp practice was held.

Dumervil was asked four questions about what it will be like to chase quarterbacks with Suggs, the 2011 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Suggs tackled three about Dumervil, the three-time Pro Bowler who could end up being the kind of elite pass rusher that Suggs has been yearning to play with during a decade with the Ravens.

Amidst all the questions about how well the two of them might fare together on paper, Suggs was asked about the young outside linebacker who has seemingly been erased from the minds of many who follow this team.

“He was huge for us last year,” Suggs said, pausing to pick his words. “I can’t explain how huge Courtney Upshaw was for us.”

Upshaw, the team’s top draft pick in 2012, has flown under the radar since the Ravens inked Dumervil in March. The only blip -- and it wasn’t a good blip -- came when he showed up noticeably overweight for offseason workouts in Baltimore. Other than that, Upshaw, who started 11 games as a rookie including playoffs, has become the forgotten linebacker.

Last season, though, Upshaw drew praise for doing quality dirty work as the strongside linebacker -- unheralded things like setting the edge against the run and dropping into coverage as Suggs or fellow pass rusher Paul Kruger tried to sack the quarterback.

His strong suit was stopping the run, as he made 60 tackles and was the team’s highest-rated run defender last season, according to Pro Football Focus. They also credited him with 35 stops, which was fourth on the team. He did miss nine tackles, though.

“He played outstanding with the reps he had,” said Dumervil, who watched Upshaw from afar in Denver. “He’s a good run-stopper and I think his football IQ is pretty good, too. And he’s still learning and he’s hungry and he’s willing to work, and that’s important.”

With a man with 63.5 career sacks added to the roster to replace -- and possibly become an upgrade over -- Kruger, Upshaw probably won’t be counted on to be an every-down player.

He will likely be on the field often on early downs and short-yardage situations, an area of Dumervil’s game that isn’t as polished. Also, by opting to do that, the Ravens could potentially keep Dumervil -- or Suggs -- fresh for when it is time to hunt quarterbacks. The Ravens can bust out all three in obvious passing situations, but Upshaw’s snaps should be scarcer then.

There are only so many snaps to go around among the three, and Suggs and Dumervil figured to get a large chunk of them. But Suggs believes it is a good problem for the coaches to have.

“You want to have too many guys and not have the problem of not having enough guys,” Suggs said. “I think Courtney is going to be stout for us. I don’t know particular how it’s going to work out, but I know it’s going to work out. We’re going to get him on the field as much as we can, and get all three of us out there.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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