One of the many questions we asked during training camp was how the rotation at outside linebacker would shake out when the games started to mean something and whether Courtney Upshaw would still have a significant role after the Ravens signed Elvis Dumervil to pair him with edge rusher Terrell Suggs.
The coaches assured us then that it was a good “problem” to have and that all three would play a lot.
So far this season, each of those outside linebackers has played at least 60 percent of the defensive snaps. Suggs, the team’s starting rush linebacker, has played 161 out of a possible 191 plays. Dumervil, who usually splits time with Upshaw at strong-side linebacker, has played 125. Upshaw has played 119.
After missing half the 2012 season with a torn Achilles tendon, Suggs is back to being one of the most dominant defenders in the NFL. He has three sacks and continues to be stout against the run. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said that Suggs drew praise for his all-around play in the Week 2 win against the Cleveland Browns, in particular.
“He’s a premier defender in the National Football League, obviously. He’s rushing the quarterback exceptionally well, but it’s not just that,” Harbaugh said Wednesday. “The very first victory we had, he did all the things that are the dirty-work-type things, the things you don’t talk about too much. He’s a complete player.”
Dumervil has mostly been asked to rush the passer, and he has a couple of sacks and a bunch of hurries to show for it. He has held up better than predicted against the run.
When Suggs and Dumervil have been on the field together, they haven't done much flip-flopping. Suggs is lining up against the left tackle on 83.8 percent of his snaps and Dumervil takes on the right tackle on 73.4 percent of his, according to Pro Football Focus. Combined they have 31 pressures.
Upshaw has usually been the strong-side linebacker on running downs, and he continues to be a quality run defender. He has had little impact when asked to rush, though.
Throw in situational edge rusher Pernell McPhee, who averages 17 defensive snaps a game, and the Ravens are rotating their outside linebackers like we thought they might.
“We are very fortunate to have, really, four guys that can play in there,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got four guys playing the edge, rushing the passer, doing a great job. They all stay fresh and they all play as hard as they can.”