As Suggs converts from a college defensive end to a 20-year-old NFL outside linebacker, he's spending the majority of his time attacking the line of scrimmage. "Right now, rushing the passer is what I do best," said Suggs, who recorded a sack along with an interception that set up a touchdown in Sunday's 24-10 win over the San Diego Chargers. "I can't argue with how they're using me. They're giving me a lot of shots at the quarterback, and that's what I like about it. "I'm going to be an every-down player one day, and I can't wait until that happens. I can still play much better and help this team more."
One year removed from setting the NCAA single-season mark with 24 sacks as a junior at Arizona State, Suggs can count on one hand the amount of times he's turned his cleats in reverse to drop into coverage. Baltimore (2-1) tends to have Suggs concentrate on that aspect of the game in practice sessions. The former Lombardi Award winner splits his time between the counsel of outside linebackers coach Phil Zacharias and defensive line coach Rex Ryan. Although Suggs wants a full-time job where he's responsible for playing every down, for now he's behind Adalius Thomas and Cornell Brown on the depth chart.
When it's third down, though, Suggs' name is regularly called to play rush end. Through three games, he has three sacks. On Sunday against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, Suggs has a chance to tie Santana Dotson's NFL mark of recording four sacks in his first four games. "Suggs is doing what we knew he could do when we drafted him," Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "He can rush the passer."
The rookie will face a stern test Sunday against Chiefs offensive tackle John Tait, all 6-foot-6, 323 pounds of him. Suggs is 6-3, 260 pounds and beats blockers primarily with fast feet and hands. Suggs got off to a slow start in training camp partly because of a brief contract holdout and a mild neck injury, but also because he didn't report in optimum condition. He could still use a full year in strength and conditioning coach Jeff Friday's weight program. Regardless, Suggs is in the midst of a sack-a-game program. "I'm just trying to get better every week," Suggs said.
At Arizona State as a 17-year-old freshman, Suggs got off to a similarly rapid start to his collegiate career. He collected 10 sacks in his first college season one year removed from excelling as a Parade All-American tailback in Chandler, Ariz. As a Sun Devils freshman, Suggs battled with 300-pound tackles and finished with 16 tackles for losses, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and returned an interception 48 yards for a score against Utah State. By the end of his third and final season, Suggs was a consensus All-American with a school-record 44 career sacks. "Terrell has an uncanny burst off the football," said former Ravens West Coast scout Art Perkins, who now works for the Jacksonville Jaguars. "Over the first 10 yards, he's as fast as anyone. "He's strong through his hips, has a variety of moves and he's smart about not wrestling too long with a bigger, stronger player."
Suggs has been concentrating on the technical aspects of pass-rushing, developing countermoves to confound blockers once they stop his initial charge. Hazed throughout training camp, including being smacked with a pie in the face during a live television interview by Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, Suggs is beginning to establish himself as someone opposing offensive coordinators have to factor into their game plans. "That young guy is just having fun," Lewis said. "A lot of older guys who have been speaking to Terrell told him, 'Don't try to figure it all out because you'll never figure it all out. Just come out and be exciting and be the player you truly are coming out of college.' And that's what he did."
Aaron Wilson writes for The Carroll County Times