Thursday, May 3, 2012

T-Sizzle, Alumnus of Ball So Hard University, Out for the Season?

"Sizzle, Ball So Hard University".

This morning, ESPN reported that TerrelL Suggs, Pro Bowl LB for the Baltimore Ravens could miss the '12-'13 NFL season with a torn Achilles tendon. Reportedly, Suggs, perhaps known as T-Sizzle, injured himself while playing basketball this offseason. We can talk having an 8-figure salary and the concept of jeopardizing that by playing game of meaningless pick-up ball later, but for now, let's get some actual analysis from our go-to football wizard, TuckRule:

When KOBEsh asked me to put together a reaction to the Terrell Suggs news, I was torn. Not that I didn’t want to help out THE GREAT MAMBINO or deprive you loyal Mambinites of your once-in-a-blue-moon TuckRule update. I just wasn’t sure exactly how big of an impact losing this one player would have on the team as a whole. After looking into it some more, I’d be confident in venturing a guess that they’re kinda screwed.

There’s some controversy over whether he tore it playing a game of pickup basketball, or if it was during conditional training he was doing on his own in Arizona. This controversy doesn’t matter so much in the grand scheme of things. What matters is how long he’ll be out. Some reports are saying he’ll be out for the full season, though Suggs vehemently denies this. According to ESPN the length of time from surgery to full activity is 4-6 months, so best case scenario he’d be back in early September and ready for Week 1. However, a 2006 study also says that the average time it takes a football player to return to action after a torn Achilles is 11 months. This would obviously force him to miss the entire season.

I obviously can’t decide his prognosis for many many reasons but I’d assume the fact that it’s just partially torn helps his cause. Now, let’s assume we’re looking at a worst case scenario situation and try to see just how screwed the Ravens would be. Below is a Suggs’ statline from last year, with the teams % in parentheses: 
·         Tackles: 70 (7%)
·         Sacks: 14 (30%)
·         Fumble Recoveries: 7 (33%)
·         Interceptions: 2 (13%)
·         Total Turnovers: 9 (25%)

If you take the average of the percentages from the first 4 stats, it comes out to just over 20%. So if you crudely quantify that as “production,” then the Ravens just lost 20% of the production from the defense that was #3 overall last year. This was a defense which propelled them to the AFC North title and was a missed chip shot FG from the Super Bowl. That’s, like, a lot. 
Normally, I’d say this is an insurmountable task, but the Ravens are also one of the best run franchises in the NFL. Heading into the offseason, they were planning on starting Paul Kruger opposite Suggs; last year, in part time, he notched 5.5 sacks and was poised for a breakout role this year. That chance seemingly went up in smoke, however, when the Ravens somehow drafted first round talent Courtney Upshaw from Alabama in the second round. They also have a few other players waiting in the wings, including Sergio Kindle, who is a big unknown as a highly touted prospect who then broke his head.
I have no way of predicting what kind of success Kruger, Upshaw, and Kindle will have, but if between them, they can notch 100 tackles, 10-15 sacks, and 8-10 turnovers, I think the Ravens should be able to reasonably replicate Suggs’ production. But those numbers might not be able to replace the leadership that Suggs provided to the defense and in the locker room. Regardless, it's difficult to complain when the Ravens have one of the best leaders in the NFL in Ray Lewis.
So after wasting time and space, my basic point is that I really have no idea how the Ravens will fare next year. They lost a lot of production and team leadership in Terrell Suggs. But they also have the players to pick up the slack. On top of that, there’s an outside chance that Suggs could even be back by opening kickoff, or at least not too far into the season. 
My personal prediction is that the Ravens will still be a tough matchup in 2012, but will miss the playoffs just barely. With the Steelers still being dominant, the upstart Bengals adding more talent this year, and the Browns now having the potential to be that sneaky good team, I don’t see the Ravens making it out of the AFC North. Also, Joe Flacco sucks.

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