Pees cautioned, though, that simply bringing extra defenders after the quarterback isn't always the correct answer.

"Sometimes, it's not bad to play coverage and get a good four-man rush," he said. "You can sit there and blitz sometimes, and if it's a quarterback that's really good at picking up the blitz, it may hurt you more than it helps you."

With Suggs expected to miss at least the majority of the season, McPhee is the Ravens' leading healthy returning pass rusher.

Regarded as a sleeper when he was picked in the fifth round last year, McPhee thrived as a rookie. He registered six sacks while primarily playing on third downs.

Having bulked up to 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, McPhee combines speed and power and is capable of rushing outside the outside shoulder of tackles as a traditional defensive end or shifting inside and grappling with hefty guards.

"He's very gifted," Jeremiah said. "When I was in Philadelphia and we played him in the first preseason game last year, he stood out like a sore thumb. The Ravens knew they hit on him right away."

Part of the Ravens' plan has been cross-training Kruger and Upshaw at Suggs' vacated rush outside linebacker spot and strong side linebacker.

A former second-round draft pick, Kruger had a career-high 5 1/2 sacks last season.

"I like Paul Kruger," Jeremiah said. "He's got a chance to be a really solid player. In my opinion, he's not a double-digit sack guy."

With the defense under scrutiny without Suggs, the Ravens don't appear to lack for motivation.

"Yeah, it's a chip on the shoulder to keep the pass rush going," McPhee said. "We ain't got to be creative. We just got to go out and compete and be ourselves."

McClain and hard-hitting strong safety Bernard Pollard and the cornerbacks are among the top candidates for increased blitzing roles this fall.

"It's in my repertoire," said McClain, who played defensive end in college.

In seven different games last season, the Ravens had at least four sacks.

That included tying a franchise record with nine in a November victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

"The guys here know how to get to the quarterback," cornerback Lardarius Webb said. "They know how to attack. It's something they teach around here, and it don't go away no matter who we got rushing."

awilson@baltsun.com