The Ravens' signing of outside linebacker Jason Babin, which should become official today, was applauded by some and derided by others who apparently wanted a younger and more dynamic replacement for the injured Terrell Suggs.
But one thing people have to remember is pass rushers are one of the most valuable commodities in the game. They are like cornerbacks. If you're healthy and close to your prime, you're most likely on a roster somewhere.
That is no knock on Babin, who has had a nice career and is coming off a solid season for the New York Jets in which he was credited for a lot of quarterback pressures but only two sacks. He was probably the best that the Ravens were going to do given the circumstances.
Unlike Shaun Phillips who also worked out for the team Tuesday, Babin took part in a training camp, so he's in shape. He's also known as a high-energy guy who plays with an edge. It will be interesting to see how Babin performs and fits in, but the Ravens have to feel fortunate that a player like him was available at a time of need.
It's a little early to tell if Babin will play Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Assuming he's on the practice field later today -- and that's the plan -- that would give him three practices and Saturday's walk-through to get ready. Ravens coach John Harbaugh will meet with reporters later today (1:45 eastern time) at the team headquarters in San Jose. He'll likely shed more light on the immediate plans for his new pass rusher.
However, it's certainly conceivable that he could play. The Ravens don't need him to grasp the entire defense immediately. They'll need him to rush the quarterback on a handful of snaps a game. Babin played in all 16 games last year for the New York Jets and then spent training camp with them. He shouldn't have to knock off any rust.
Suggs will be missed vs. run
The Ravens will obviously miss Terrell Suggs as a pass rusher. They'll also miss his leadership and his on-field intelligence, one of Suggs' more underrated qualities. But I think a case could be made that they'll miss his ability to play the run just as much as anything.
It isn't easy to set the edge and Suggs does it as well as any 3-4 linebacker in the league. Sure, he gets caught crashing down inside on occasion, but overall, he's been consistent and productive as a run stopper.
Those who point to his zero tackles in three-plus quarters against the Denver Broncos as proof that the Ravens won't significantly miss him are focusing on one game rather than a decade-plus of strong play. They're also forgetting what Suggs' mere presence on the field sets up for other teammates.
Don't misunderstand, the season is not lost. I think the Ravens can make the playoffs without him, but there will be plays each game where his absence is felt.
Good time to be on the road
Maybe, it's just me, but the more I think about it, the more I think the timing of this whole staying on the West Coast thing was perfect for the Ravens.
They didn't have to come home and hear for days about the loss of Suggs and a game that they should have won. They are insulated a little bit out here on the West Coast, able to go about their business with few distractions.
That's just the way Harbaugh likes it. They can spend plenty of time together bonding and fostering an "us against the world" mentality.
Raiders' secondary in shambles
Speaking of good timing for the Ravens, the Raiders are expected to be without their starting safeties – the ageless Charles Woodson and Nate Allen – on Sunday.
They have gotten so thin at the position that Taylor Mays, a player that Oakland cut about 10 days ago, was re-signed and might end up starting against the Ravens.
The Raiders have cornerback issues, as well. If the Ravens can slow the Raiders' pass rush, there's no reason Joe Flacco and company shouldn't be able to make plays down the field.
How former Ravens fared
By now, everybody knows what Tyrod Taylor did in his first NFL start for the Buffalo Bills.
Here are a couple of other notes on former Ravens in their debuts with new teams (I'll spare Ravens' fans of the Darian Stewart one):
- Haloti Ngata made three tackles and played in 53 defensive snaps for the Detroit Lions.
- Jah Reid started at right tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs and played all 70 offensive snaps.
- Torrey Smith had one catch for 11 yards for the San Francisco 49ers.
- Running back Bernard Pierce didn’t get a carry for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he caught one pass for four yards and played extensively on special teams.
- Now with the San Diego Chargers, Jacoby Jones had one kick return for 24 yards and two fair catches on punts. He didn’t play an offensive snap.
- Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee had six tackles in his Chicago Bears debut.