When the Ravens signed Elvis Dumervil in the offseason, the expectation was that he and fellow outside linebacker Terrell Suggs would team up to become one of the best pass-rushing tandems in the league.
Considering that Suggs was coming off an injury-marred 2012 season in which he had just two sacks and also that Dumervil was being dropped into a new defensive system, those immediate expectations may have seemed a little lofty. But after watching them harass quarterbacks throughout training camp and into the preseason, it was clear to most that the Ravens had something special at the outside linebacker position.
So far this season, it has been fun watching Suggs and Dumervil chase after quarterbacks together. And after Suggs got off to a fast start in 2013, Dumervil closed the gap in that sack race with three sacks last Sunday.
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Through nine games, Suggs has nine sacks and Dumervil has 8.5 as those two have produced 17.5 of the team's 32 sacks (third in the NFL). Only two other pass-rushing duos have more. Justin Houston and Tamba Hali of the Kansas City Chiefs lead the league with 20 combined sacks and Robert Quinn and Chris Long of the St. Louis Rams have 18.5.
Dumervil downplayed the sack totals, though, and suggested that sacks are a team stat, that pressure from up the gut and the coverage on the back end help make them happen.
“It takes a lot to get a sack, man,” he said. “Everybody’s got to do their responsibilities, guys pushing the pocket and good coverage, to allow you those one-on-ones.”
But with two formidable edge rushers, opponents are forced to pick their poison in passing situations.
“It’s good to have a guy like [Dumervil] opposite of you,” Suggs said.
And if opponents choose to double-team both of them, it creates opportunities for interior pass rushers like Arthur Jones, Chris Canty or Haloti Ngata, who have 7.5 combined sacks.
It has been Suggs and Dumervil, though, that makes the pass rush go. Suggs has 35 pressures in 278 snaps as a pass rusher, per Pro Football Focus. But despite playing 74 fewer snaps as a pass rusher, Dumervil, who rushes from the left 66.4 percent of the time, leads the Ravens with 39 pressures.
Interestingly, based on one Pro Football Focus metric, both players have been more effective as pass rushers when they were flip-flopped, which happens a few times a game. Suggs got three of his sacks while attacking the right tackle and Dumervil got three when lining up against the left tackle.
That speaks more to the Ravens giving opposing offensive tackles a different look -- perhaps similar to a batter facing a fastball pitcher for one at-bat and then an off-speed specialist the next -- than it does a need to switch their positions.
No, Suggs and Dumervil are doing just fine wherever they are lined up. And with 17.5 sacks already and seven games left to go in the season, they are on pace to set a new Ravens record for sacks by a pair of pass rushers. Trevor Pryce and Adalius Thomas hold the mark with 24 sacks in 2006.
But this week, both were united in one thing besides their ability to get to quarterbacks. Both quickly pointed to the team’s win total whenever asked about individual sacks.
“It’s all about wins,” Suggs said. “We both want to do well in it, but it’s only fun if you’re winning. So I think once we get above .500, we’ll see where we’re at. But first off, we’ve just got to get the wins first. That’s most important.”