Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs warms up before playing the San Diego Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium in their Nov. 30 meeting.
Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs warms up before playing the San Diego Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium in their Nov. 30 meeting. (Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

Some sports name three stars of the game after the game. I'll do that one better: I'm going to name them before the Ravens even play. These will be the three stars of the game when the Ravens get a visit from the 2-11 Jacksonville Jaguars.

1. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs

Advertisement

With all respect to the NFL's joint-leader in sacks, fellow Raven Elvis Dumervil, top honors against the Jaguars will go to the longest-tenured Raven, Suggs. While he's amassed just over half of Dumervil's 16 sacks on the season (Suggs has 8.5), this matchup favors Suggs.

Jacksonville's left tackle, 2013 No. 1 draft pick Luke Joeckel, has allowed a team-high five sacks, along with seven quarterback hits and 19 pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. If extra attention from blockers in Suggs' direction has freed up Dumervil for his Pro Bowl-caliber campaign, Dumevil's recent success might allow Suggs a little more room to work — and provide some extra motivation to match his counterpart.

Suggs has also had plenty of success at home this year, with four total sacks in the last four games at M&T Bank Stadium after being shut out in the first two weeks of the season. With Jacksonville likely staring down plenty of passing situations, Suggs, Dumervil, Pernell McPhee and company could find themselves with plenty of sacks. A pair for Suggs, including one that will result in a safety, would put him in the top spot on this hypothetical podium.

2. Running back Bernard Pierce

Pierce didn't get his hands on the football until the game's final moments last week as he relinquished the top backup role to rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro, but with Taliaferro dealing with a foot injury, Pierce is in a good position to build on his good fourth quarter last week. With Justin Forsett a week removed from a knee injury and deep into the largest workload of his career, Pierce should get any rushing attempts being used to protect a lead.

It's been a rocky season for Pierce, who basically got two quarters to seize the starting job in September and has battled against both injuries and coaches' decisions since Forsett emerged as the top back. His play, however, has improved in the second half. He's averaged nearly six yards per carry since the bye, buoyed by a few long runs, and has elevated his season rushing average to 3.9 yards per carry.

Pierce, a Philadelphia native, has long said he looked forward to the cold weather, when he feels his running style is best served. He'll more than likely get a chance to show that against Jacksonville, and could find the end zone twice in the process.

3. Cornerback Lardarius Webb

As the veteran leader of the Ravens secondary — he's the only defensive back playing meaningful snaps who was on the Super Bowl championship team of two seasons ago — Webb has stood sentry at his locker time and time again and answered for the unit's struggles. He's always believed an improvement was eminent, and his moment to signify that turnaround might have arrived. After all, the Ravens' pass defense has been slightly better at home than on the road, especially before San Diego's Philip Rivers threw for nearly 400 yards in Baltimore.

Since the bye, Webb, who said recently he's finally feeling healthy after a back injury limited him early, has been quietly solid. He's still allowing receptions when targeted, but was thrown at just once last week and has allowed just eight catches in three games since the bye, according to Pro Football Focus.

With Jacksonville's pass blocking limitations, rookie quarterback Blake Bortles could be forced to throw quickly, meaning Webb won't have to chase Jacksonville's speedy young receivers in space downfield. Combine that with Bortles' predilection for throwing to the other team — he's thrown a league-high 16 interceptions in barely over 10 games — and Webb could be in line for his first interception of the season.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement