BENGALS RT ANDRE SMITH VS. RAVENS OLB TERRELL SUGGS
Terrell Suggs is like a fine wine at age 29 and in his ninth season as he leads the AFC with 13 sacks. The man nicknamed "Sizzle" comes into Sunday's game at Paul Brown Stadium (4:15 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) on fire with 18 sacks in his last 17 games and 29 in his last 33 since 2010. The man deserves to be the NFL Defensive Player of the Year if valuable is any part of the definition.
But the Bengals haven't been a place where he's gone to the well. Just 6.5 of his 81.5 career sacks that lead the Ravens all-time list have come against a club he plays twice a year in the AFC North. Five of Suggs's 18.5 sacks against the Steelers have come in the playoffs and three of them this season while Sizzling the Browns for 13. The Bengals haven't given up a sack to Suggs since 2009 and have allowed just 1.5 to him since 2006.
Take a bow left tackles Levi Jones and Andrew Whitworth and, on occasion, right tackles Willie Anderson, Anthony Collins, Dennis Roland and, in '08, Stacy Andrews. Suggs has never gotten Whitworth for a sack in eight games and that's not to be underestimated in a series the Bengals lead, 10-7, since Suggs's rookie season of 2003. The Ravens are 49-17 when Suggs has a sack and 13-1 when he has at least two, and he had his third three-sack game of the season against the Colts three weeks ago.
The 6-3, 260-pound Suggs spends most of his time over Whitworth, but on third down he's been known to flip and that puts him head up at times with Smith, the emerging, young Bengals right tackle that has impressed with his progress this season after his first two injury-riddled years limited him to a total of 13 games.
Coming back from an ankle injury that cost him two games, Smith was dominant against the run last Saturday against Arizona and now he heads into his 14th game of this season feeling as good as he ever has. He's down to 320 pounds, which is down from 332 at the start of the season, which is down from an estimated 340-to-350 pounds at some point during the lockout.
You have to love it. A kid on the come against one of the best rushers of his era.
There is really only one man to break down Smith's occasional shots against Suggs. It has to be the greatest Bengals right tackle of all time, Anderson, who finished his career with one season for the Ravens in '08. Anderson has been watching the games on TV and talking to Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander once every couple of weeks or so:
"I think Andre's doing well. He's going into his third year and Paul has always said you either have it or you don't by your third year and I think if you look around there aren't a lot of right tackles that are better. From what I understand he's matured a lot and I think if you mature as a person you mature as a player and I think he's at that point in his life and career right now.
"As far as brute strength and flat out physically moving people, he may be their best guy at just being able to displace defenders. That's a big bowling ball coming at you knocking down everything in his way. He's got a lot of natural talent but his game isn't as complete as Whit's. He needs the reps and the experience.
"I think he's OK in pass pro. It's all about the consistency of his sets. Once he's able to do the same thing with his hands and feet on every snap, he's going to be OK. A great pass rusher like Suggs lives on a guy having inconsistent sets. Once he knows you're going to have different sets, he's got you.
"Suggs is a counter rusher. He'll make a move to set you up and then come up with another one off that. The counter rushers are the hardest ones to block. He tries to get your hands and feet moving. He'll shake you down and then try a bull move and dip his shoulder. People think Suggs is a big old guy bulling you. He's athletic. He's not a fast edge guy like (Dwight) Freeney and (Robert) Mathis, but he's athletic enough to shake.
"The good thing about it when Levi and I were going against him is we had different styles. Different pass sets. Levi had that quick, explosive, violent first step. Me, I'd take that step as slow as you were going to take it. I'd mirror you. Whit is like that. I think that's why Suggs has problems with him. Whit takes that big old slow set every time. I think Andre is trying to find out what his style is. What his best sets are. It's part of getting experience."