The indefinite absence of reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year and five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is already a worrisome topic with regards to the Ravens' pass rush. It could also force the secondary to add another responsibility to its plate.
If Paul Kruger, Albert McClellan and rookie Courtney Upshaw can't fill the void created by Suggs' ruptured right Achilles tendon, the defense might be forced to get creative with its blitzes. And that could entail asking the cornerbacks and safeties to get more involved.
Free safety Ed Reed declined to say Thursday whether the secondary will be blitzing more this season, saying, "We haven't played a game yet. We haven't gotten into the flow of a game. It's always different when you get into the flow of a game and when you're playing certain teams."
But Reed did concede that the career-best 14 sacks that Suggs compiled in 2011 will have to come from other sources.
"Guys are going to have to step up," Reed said. "Not just one player. Every guy. That's offense, defense and special teams. We've all got to pick up that slack because we know what Terrell brings to the table, watching film on Cincinnati's game and watching him play last year doing those dominating things that he does. So he's definitely going to be missed until he gets back."
ESPN NFL analyst Eric Allen said he wouldn't be shocked if defensive coordinator Dean Pees were to add more blitz packages involving the cornerbacks and safeties.
"I think without Terrell Suggs, you have to find a way to either play more man-to-man or you have to find a tweener who has the speed to come off the corner," said Allen, a former cornerback with the Philadelphia Eagles. "But you can find yourself in a difficult situation because that zone, nickel or dime blitzer is coming from a little further away than Terrell Suggs would come. So it's going to take him time to get there, and quarterbacks will be able to diagnose what is happening and be able to get off of that. So they're going to have to find a way to be able to provide pressure without utilizing all those blitzes. And that can come with just man-to-man pressure. That can come with some kind of zone dog [blitz] where they can drop a linebacker and bring someone else. That's really going to be the issue there because he always gave you double-digit sacks. And even when he didn't get there, he's someone that you had to know where he was on the field."
Allen also said that he's not worried about the play of the secondary in the preseason. Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones caught six passes for 109 yards and one touchdown in a quarter on Aug. 9, and Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson finished with five receptions for 111 yards and one touchdown in about a quarter-and-a-half on Aug. 17. Even Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Justin Blackmon had four catches for 72 yards on Aug. 23.
Cornerback Lardarius Webb argued that the defense's schemes were basic, and Allen agreed.
"You're very vanilla," he said. "They do so much with their defense. … I wouldn't hesitate or worry about preseason stats."