Improving the pass rush was one of the top priorities for the Ravens this offseason, but unlike their other critical needs -- adding speed at receiver, bolstering the offense line, getting bigger at cornerback -- the Ravens have addressed it organically by promoting from within with players and a new coordinator.
Younger players such as Paul Kruger, Sergio Kindle and Arthur Jones will need to take on larger roles, and rookie defensive end Pernell McPhee could help crash the backfield party, too. But it appears the biggest factor will be Chuck Pagano, who was promoted from secondary coach to become the defensive coordinator.
In his first game as coordinator, the Ravens forced a franchise-record seven turnovers against the Steelers and sacked quarterback Ben Roethlisberger four times. Terrell Suggs racked up three of those sacks.
"I think Chuck is a little different in his approach of getting to the quarterback," linebacker Ray Lewis told reporters Wednesday at the team’s practice facility. "It's kind of an emphasis for our defense."
That means the Ravens are now on pace to finish with 64 sacks and Suggs would have 48, which would be a record, I think. Of course, basing projections for a 16-game season on one afternoon isn’t the most reliable thing to do. (Do you actually think Tom Brady is going to have 8,272 passing yards this season?) But the Ravens are off to a good start. And don’t think they’re not keeping track of that stat.
There was an interesting nugget in Ed Lee’s story in Thursday’s newspaper about the pass rush. As Lee reported in the story, defensive line coach Clarence Brooks made his players aware that the Ravens had a franchise-low 27 sacks in 2010. Brooks also pointed out that the Steelers led the league with 48. “The emphasis is getting that number higher," defensive end Cory Redding told Lee.
How high will they get it? Let’s do some premature speculation based on one real game and four exhibitions.
Your turn: How many sacks will the Ravens have this season?