OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs gave a sheepish grin when asked Wednesday how good a pass rush duo he and Elvis Dumervil could be.
“We can be pretty good,' Suggs said, “if everything goes according to plan.'
The plan — set in motion after Dumervil couldn't fax an agreed-upon contract to the Denver Broncos in time and then signed with Baltimore — is for the Ravens to boost last season's 15th best total of 37 sacks. They lost seven players who combined for 20 sacks, including team-leader Paul Kruger's nine.
But now the Ravens may have their best pass-rushing duo since Suggs arrived in 2003. He and Dumervil rank among the top 20 active players in sacks, something no other team can boast.
“Not to take away from Kruger and Jarret Johnson,' Suggs said, “but Elvis, he has a specialty in things that he does, kind of like myself. I'm ecstatic.'
The two recognize they're part of a defense being rebuilt after returning just five Super Bowl starters. Team leaders Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are gone, as are Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe.
They've been replaced by defensive linemen Chris Canty and Marcus Spears, linebackers Arthur Brown and Daryl Smith and safeties Matt Elam and Michael Huff, all of whom need to learn the playbook and each other's tendencies.
The turnover wasn't necessarily a bad thing. The Ravens' 5,616 yards allowed was 17th in the NFL last season, their 1,965 rushing yards put them at 20th and their 344 points given up was 12th. They had more holes than a colander.
“We will be better this year, for sure,' Dumervil said. “It's more than me and Terrell. We've got the secondary, and we have a pretty good coaching staff. You combine all those things, it's special.
“Whenever it's a totally different team, stakes are different, questions are asked, so you have to go out and prove yourself. That's the beauty of it.'
The Ravens will be aided by Suggs' return to health. He played just eight games after offseason surgery on his torn right Achilles tendon and tearing his right biceps muscle during the season. He described himself as fully healthy and entering the prime of his career after collecting just two sacks last year.
Suggs' health will greatly help him and Dumervil place pressure on quarterbacks. The Ravens sack record for two players is 24, set by Trevor Pryce and Adalius Thomas in 2006, a mark in Suggs' mind.
“We are not going to cap the potential of what me and Elvis can do,' he said. “I think it's going to be fun to see us when we finally all get to get out there and get after and the bullets are live.'