When Terrell Suggs learned that Elvis Dumervil planned to sign with the Ravens in late March, the normally verbose linebacker sent his new teammate a simple and direct text message.
"Let's hunt," Suggs wrote.
The Ravens' regular-season opener against Dumervil's old team — the Denver Broncos — was more than five months away but Suggs was already excited to know he'd be keeping good company in his quest to hit, harass and haul down quarterbacks during the 2013 season.
For all the great defensive players that Suggs has played with since the Ravens took him in the first round of the 2003 draft, the acquisition of Dumervil gives the franchise something that it has lacked for nearly a decade: two bookend, Pro Bowl pass rushers in the primes of their career.
Suggs, 30, has 84.5 sacks in 10 NFL seasons, ranking him seventh among active players in that category. Dumervil, 29, is tied with the Buffalo Bills' Mario Williams for 16th on that list with 63.5 sacks in six pro seasons. No other NFL team boasts two active players in the top 20 in career sacks.
"Not to take away from [Paul] Kruger and Jarret Johnson, but Elvis, he has a specialty with the things that he does, kind of like myself," Suggs said Wednesday on the mandatory date for veterans to report to training camp. "I think it's going to be fun to see us when we all get to go out there and the bullets are live."
Dumervil is used to having another stud pass rusher across his line of scrimmage. He and Von Miller combined for 50.5 sacks over the past two seasons with Denver. As excited as he is to play with Suggs, Dumervil was more interested in talking about the Ravens' defense as a whole.
"I think we have a lot of good players on this defense," he said. "I think, primarily, you have got guys inside. That's important, especially having that rotation. Obviously, with what Terrell Suggs brings on the other side, it can be a trifecta, so it should be special."
But how special? Could Suggs and Dumervil become the most prolific single-season pass-rush tandem that the Ravens have ever had? Trevor Pryce, who shares that honor with Adalius Thomas as the two combined for 24 sacks in the 2006 season, certainly thinks so.
"Between Terrell and Elvis, I think they'll have 25 sacks between them. I think that's the baseline of what they'll do," said Pryce, who played 15 years in the NFL, including five with the Ravens, and had 91 career sacks. Pryce lives in Howard County and follows the Ravens closely.
"I think [our] record is going to fall. If those two guys can get 25 sacks between them, the team will have close to 45 sacks. In today's NFL, with offenses throwing more but putting a premium on keeping the quarterback upright, if they get 45 sacks between their whole defense, they'll play in the AFC championship again."
The Ravens tied for 15th in the NFL with 37 sacks last year, only two of them coming from Suggs who had two sacks in eight games while trying to play through a surgically-repaired Achilles and a torn biceps. Kruger, a pass-rush specialist who emerged last season with a team-leading nine sacks, parlayed his breakout year into a five-year, $40.5 million deal with the Cleveland Browns.
Two weeks later, the Ravens signed Dumervil to a five-year, $35 million contract. He was a natural replacement for Kruger, but the reality was that the Ravens had been searching for another perennial Pro Bowl pass rusher to complement Suggs for a long time.
"I don't think they've had that," said former Raven linebacker Peter Boulware, who is second in franchise history behind Suggs with 70 career sacks over a nine-year career.
"When you have two out there, it's special. There's a couple of ways to get pressure. You can get pressure with four people trying to rush or you can blitz or you can bring more people than they can block. It makes it a lot easier when you can bring straight four-man pressure and know that you'll be able to get to the quarterback and use the other guys to cover with. Your defense is so much better if you can get the quarterback with a four-man rush."
For six seasons, Boulware teamed with Michael McCrary to form one of the league's better pass-rushing duos. During that span, the two combined for 110 sacks.
"It made me a better player," Boulware said. "They couldn't focus on one of us but also, we had a competitive thing going in the locker room. Not only were we trying to beat the offensive lineman, but we were trying to beat each other to the quarterback. Just having another great pass rusher out there makes you elevate your game. It makes it so much better for you."
Either Boulware or McCrary led the team in sacks every season except one from 1997 to 2002. Rob Burnett had a team-leading 10.5 quarterback takedowns in 2000. Suggs arrived on the scene in 2003 with a team-best 12 sacks as a rookie and he's led the team in that category in six of his 10 seasons in Baltimore. In two of the four seasons where the Ravens had other sack leaders, Suggs missed significant time because of injury.
Then, there was the 2006 campaign when the Ravens set a team-record with 60 sacks. Four Ravens had 9.5 sacks or more that season, including Suggs.
"We caught lightning in the bottle. The next year, we didn't do that. The year after that, we didn't do that. Nobody could block us," Pryce said. "That's what the Ravens had to address. You can't win championships in the NFL with just one pass rusher. You need at least two but three is ideal. But they have a bunch of guys that will each get five or six sacks."
Suggs and Dumervil were quick to deflect attention to teammates like defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who has averaged five sacks over the past three seasons; linebacker/defensive end Pernell McPhee, who had six sacks in 2011; and defensive end Chris Canty who has totaled seven sacks over his past two seasons. According to Pryce, Canty is particularly important because if he's able to penetrate the inside gap, it will make it tougher for teams to double team Suggs.
But when it comes to getting to the quarterback, all eyes will be on Suggs and Dumervil. Asked if 24 combined sacks is a realistic goal for he and Dumervil, Suggs said, "I don't know. We are not going to cap the potential of what me and Elvis can do."
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