Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 5/9/12
The Ravens do not like how their 2012 offseason is starting. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker Terrell Suggs will start the season on the injury list after tearing his Achilles tendon performing a conditioning workout in Arizona.

Now with Ravens Nation thinking the worse, GM Ozzie Newsom has reassured fans that the surgery, performed by Bob Anderson, was successful and “Sizzle” will begin rehabbing in the Baltimore area, and will return to the Ravens this season.
 
But now someone has to step in, and it’s someone who people wanted to have more of a learning curve than he will get this year. After trading back into the first-round, upon seeing no one was going to take their guy, the Ravens selected Crimson Tide linebacker Courtney Upshaw with the third pick in the second round. After failing in the past to find a protégé for the aging Ray Lewis, Upshaw will be called upon early and often for the Ravens.
 
Due to his sluggish workouts, Upshaw fell in the Draft and Ozzie Newsome couldn’t have been happier. He was First-team All-American, finalist for the Lombardi Award, finalist for the Butkus award, second in the SEC with 17 tackles for loss, had at least one sack in five of the last seven games, and is big at 6’2’’, 272 pounds. He sets a very good edge to stall blockers and reads plays off them to get to the ball. His strength is the biggest attribute he will bring to a defense that thrives on big hits, big plays, and not allowing the ball beyond that second level.
 
The Ravens play some decent offensive teams in the first seven weeks including the Bengals, Texans, Eagles and Cowboys. All ran the ball effectively last year, and that doesn’t include the Browns who added Upshaw’s former teammate, running back Trent Richardson in the Draft. Upshaw showed he was excellent at blowing up the backfield of opponents, leaving running backs nowhere to go. He also showed he can use his excellent flexibility to get around linemen to make tackles. But that’s Ray Lewis’ forte, and even though he has lost a step in pass coverage, Lewis can still always find the ball carrier and take him down.
 
But the job Suggs provided was striking fear in to opposing quarterbacks. He had 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles, two picks, 70 tackles, 50 which were solo. Courtney Upshaw’s job will be to do the same things. He has the same build of Suggs (6’3’’, 260 pounds) and will be asked to make plays in the backfield, which Upshaw did 38% of the time at Alabama. There is no reason to think why he wouldn’t be able to do this, especially with an extremely veteran and vocal leader in Ray Lewis in his ear day after day.
 
But the biggest thing Courtney Upshaw will be asked to do is learn. Terrell Suggs is 29, Ray Lewis is 36, Ed Reed is 33, and these guys will not be around too much longer. Upshaw will need to take over as the leader of this defense that is linebacker oriented and take them into the future. He will have to learn how to be the director of a defense that ranked 3rd, 10th, 3rd, 2nd, and 6th 2011 through 2007, respectively, in total defense. That’s a long time to be good in the NFL especially on one side of the football.
 
With the help of his teammates Upshaw has the potential to be the next great leader of this defense. Maybe Suggs’ injury is a blessing in disguise for Ravens fans. Suggs won the defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2003 with 12 sacks and 27 tackles. If Upshaw’s numbers are anywhere close to that, look out AFC North. 

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