Boulware's sack production plummets as Suggs soars

OWINGS MILLS - Months before football season began, the Baltimore Ravens were already envisioning a series of assaults on quarterbacks. With Pro Bowl outside linebacker Peter Boulware opposite first-round draft pick Terrell Suggs, the coaching staff hoped to manufacture prodigious sack totals. It hasn't gone exactly as planned...

It hasn't gone exactly as planned for Boulware. It's a statistical twist that involves the athletic rookie's rapid, albeit one-dimensional development as a pass rusher, Boulware's multi-faceted role and opposing offensive coordinators' schemes. Through four games for Baltimore (2-2), Suggs ranks third in the league with four sacks. Boulware, the Ravens' all-time leading pass rusher with 59 sacks, has none heading into Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals

Boulware actually had one sack in the season-opener to the Pittsburgh Steelers negated by the Elias Sports Bureau. They ruled that his tackle of quarterback Tommy Maddox was just past the line of scrimmage. "I kind of do a little bit of everything," said Boulware, who hasn't had a sack since last December. "I blitz a little bit. I cover. I'm just kind of all over the field. "Wherever they need me to be, I'll be there. Hopefully, I will be seen as an outside linebacker who does more than get sacks. But that is what I love to do. I love to get to the quarterback." 

Because Boulware is being utilized heavily in run support and pass coverage, he's often on the move.  Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has Boulware line up everywhere from across tight ends, stacking behind linemen inside and even venturing out to the hash marks. Boulware has seven sacks in his last 20 games, qualifying as somewhat of a drought for him. In a 17-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Boulware virtually became Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez's second shadow. Gonzalez's lone touchdown reception wasn't at Boulware's expense. When Boulware does get to blitz, which isn't often, he's usually the recipient of chip blocking.  

While offensive tackles occupy the three-time Pro Bowl selection, running backs and tight ends collide with him to keep him away from the quarterback. "We're asking Peter to be a lot more versatile this year, and I think he has been," outside linebackers coach Phil Zacharias said. "I wouldn't exactly call it a quiet showing, maybe quiet in people's expectations that he be a sack specialist. "Peter is doing a whole bunch of stuff for us. He's very unselfish and is a true every-down linebacker who did a helluva job covering Tony Gonzalez. I think we will see that pass-rushing side of Peter that we're used to soon." 

Two seasons ago, Boulware primarily played defensive end after a season-ending injury to Michael McCrary. He wound up setting a club record with 15 sacks to lead the AFC and finish second in the NFL. In the regular-season finale against the Minnesota Vikings in 2001, Boulware tied a team mark with four sacks. So, it's not as if Boulware isn't capable of harassing quarterbacks. Yet, through four games, he has 18 tackles and a pass deflection to show for his efforts. Boulware was under the impression that he had been credited with one sack. When he was informed that it had been taken away by a statistician, he replied: "Well, I've got to get to the quarterback a lot more." Boulware said he isn't sure how often his name is called on blitzes, but acknowledged that it's not very often.  "I haven't really been counting," Boulware said. "I know we've been putting a big emphasis on playing the run pretty hard, so I try to do that. When I get to rush, I try to make the best of the opportunity." 

Baltimore (2-2) has allowed only 3.7 yards per rush.  Meanwhile, the entire Ravens' defense ranks sixth overall as the team has generated nine sacks. Last season's cumulative total was 33, and Boulware had seven of them. Will this trend of Boulware garnering blockers away from Suggs continue? Or is it about to work in reverse? "They are going to respect Peter Boulware," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "That is why the rookie has four sacks in four games.  "At some point, they will have to honor that and put the chipper or turn the back to him and then Peter will get his run of sacks."

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