Ravens linebacker and NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate Terrell Suggs has 6 1/2 sacks against the Cincinnati Bengals, his third most against any NFL team. But only one of them has come against the man who will line up opposite Suggs on Sunday.
Few offensive linemen have given Suggs as many issues as Andrew Whitworth, the Bengals' mammoth left tackle who doesn't get the accolades but continually shuts down the opposing team's top pass rushers. Since Whitworth was moved from guard to tackle for the 2009 season, Suggs has just one sack in five games against the Bengals, and has been held without a sack for three consecutive meetings.
Suggs had five sacks in his first three games against the Bengals, but since Cincinnati installed Whitworth, a second-round pick out of Louisiana State, as a starter in 2006, Suggs has just 1 1/2 sacks of Cincinnati quarterbacks in 11 games.
"He is up there," said Suggs when asked if Whitworth is one of his toughest matchups. "He's one of those tackles that knows exactly how long he has to protect. He's a good tackle."
In fairness to Suggs, he is not alone with his struggles against Whitworth. The 6-foot-7, 335-pound Whitworth is recognized by his peers as one of the best left tackles in football despite never making a Pro Bowl team, and he's been largely overshadowed in the past couple of seasons by Cleveland Browns' left tackle Joe Thomas.
"He's solid," said Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. "Talking to [outside linebackers coach] Teddy Monachino — he makes a pass rush tape for the defensive line and the pass rushers every week — and you don't see this guy get beat. He's steady; he's really, really steady. He's a big man. He's tough to get around, and once he gets his hands on you, it's hard to beat him. He's been really solid for them.
Said Ravens linebacker Jarret Johnson: "He doesn't get a lot of respect. Nobody really talks about him and you watch him on tape and he just blocks everybody. Nobody beats him. So, he's a really good player. I've got a lot of respect for him. He plays hard, not a dirty player. He just blocks people."
Suggs, who was named to his fifth Pro Bowl team earlier in the week, is having a career year with an AFC-leading 13 sacks, 64 tackles, two interceptions and six forced fumbles.
While he has been a consistent presence throughout, much of Suggs' damage against opposing quarterbacks has been done in three games as he has been held without a sack in eight of the Ravens' 15 games. Suggs has nine of his 13 sacks and five of his six forced fumbles in three games. He had three sacks in the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers and three more in games against the San Francisco 49ers and Indianapolis Colts.
After getting shut out the past two weeks by the San Diego Chargers' Jared Gaither and the Browns' Thomas, Suggs will have another huge challenge with Whitworth or Bengals' right tackle Andre Smith if the Ravens linebacker opts to switch sides at times, as he is known to do, especially on third downs.
Either way, the Suggs' matchup could go a long way in helping to decide the game.
In the Ravens' four losses — all on the road — Suggs has one total sack. As a team, the Ravens defense, which has relied heavily on Suggs' ability to get to the quarterback, has just five total sacks in their four losses.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times