Reigning Defensive MVP Suggs 11th On TV List
NGATA TO BE ONLY RAVEN IN THE TOP TEN
By Joe Platania
Before the Ravens took on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field last year, an NFL Films cameraman caught linebacker Terrell Suggs engaging in some give-and-take with some of the black-and-gold-clad partisans.
Over and over, Suggs smiled and told them, "Don't make me mad!"
Both Suggs and Ravens fans might be upset this week, for two main reasons.
First, Suggs -- the reigning Defensive Player of the Year -- ranked only 11th on the NFL Network's "Top 100" active players list, according to the latest portion revealed Wednesday night.
That ranking isn't likely to be helped this year, and could be hurt significantly, by his absence after Achilles tendon surgery, which could last at least half the season.
Secondly, with Suggs, free safety Ed Reed (16th) and linebacker Ray Lewis (20th) all ranked outside the top 10, fans will see one fewer Raven in that elite portion when it is revealed during the next two weeks.
Despite battling a deep thigh bruise and less power and strength because of a 10-pound weight loss, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata will be the only Baltimore player among the 10 highest-ranked players on the "Top 100" list.
Ngata was 17th on last year's tally, so his ranking will rise. Suggs' placement was up a full 29 spots. That represents the second-highest rise by any of the seven Ravens on the list; running back Ray Rice went up 34 spots (56-22).
But, mostly because of Reed's decrease in interceptions, his ranking fell from No. 5 to No. 16. Lewis' four-game absence with an injured toe likely contributed to his decline from No. 4 to No. 20; in 2011, Lewis was the highest-ranking defensive player in the "Top 100."
Despite that, Reed's 57 interceptions are the most by any active player. His next regular-season pickoff will tie him with Hall of Fame cornerback Emmitt Thomas for 10th on the all-time interception list, and his ranking was three spots higher than that of the player with which he is most compared, Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu (19th).
Baltimore, Pittsburgh and San Francisco -- the top three defenses in the league last year -- each have a league-high four defensive players on the list.
The NFL Network's annual ranking of the top 100 active players featured seven Ravens on last year's list, tied with the Green Bay Packers for the league high.
The same number will populate this year's rankings, tied with San Francisco and Philadelphia for the most from one squad.
The difference this year is that four Ravens -- Suggs, Lewis, Ngata and Reed -- are all in the top 20. Last year, only Ngata, Reed and Lewis ranked that high.
Even after 16 seasons, Lewis was the highest-ranked defensive player on last year's list. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was named the league's top player.
Further back in the 2012 rankings, three Ravens' standings have already risen significantly. Quarterback Joe Flacco went from No. 90 to No. 74 and fullback Vonta Leach's number went up 20 notches to 45, in addition to Rice's rise from No. 56 to No. 22.
(Leach's initial ranking of 65 came after his final season as a member of the Houston Texans.)
Two years ago, a pair of Ravens appeared on the top 100 all-time list, with Reed at No. 88 and Lewis at 18. San Francisco wide receiver Jerry Rice earned the top spot.
On the two active-player lists, current NFL players' top-20 preferences were then put through a point system, with the top 100 totals making up the final list. On the all-time list, retired players' preferences and longtime media members' votes were the determining factors.
Posted June 21, 2012