The Baltimore Ravens are not unlike most any other NFL teams in that they've had their share of injuries in Training Camp as well as pre-season. Luckily, other than Adam Terry and Marcus Smith, both looked at being reserves anyway, the team has escaped the devastating loss that could drastically affect a team's season.
After the game Monday night against the New York Jets, a couple of other injuries came out to the public. Tight end L.J. Smith has a bum hamstring and DT Kelly Gregg injured his shoulder. There is every reason to believe that both guys will return by the time the regular season begins in a little over two weeks. We've already been informed that wide receiver Mark Clayton has returned to the practice field and will be ready for the home opener on September 13th against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Clayton's absence in practice and the exhibition games has opened the doors for Kelley Washington and Justin Harper, both who have had their share of success. Washington looks to be the guy willing to go over the middle and his enthusiastic approach to the game is contagious and refreshing. Harper, who looks to be the guy who will make the deep acrobatic catch one moment and then miss a pass that hits him in the numbers the next one, has made great strides this year compared to last year when he was ignored on the Practice Squad.
With Clayton's return, the depth chart just got a little deeper and it may be hard to find significant playing time for all of the receivers, which is a nice problem to have for this team, since it has been widely criticized for the lack of a star receiver. Derrick Mason is still the go-to guy for QB Joe Flacco and this team will remain a run-first offense no matter who is playing wideout here. However, if teams decide to stack the box to stop the run and force us to pass, then they will be quickly burned by the strong arm of our second year QB, who has the cunning Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron in his helmet radio not afraid to light it up if the opportunity arises.
L.J. Smith's injury leaves Todd Heap as the only other proven tight end on the roster. Rookie Davon Drew has had a great opportunity the entire camp and pre-season but just hasn't earned the right to get the chances he could have. The team also has converted linebacker Edgar Jones, but his pass catching abilities have been less than promising and Isaac Smolko, from Penn State on the roster. Smolko has actually looked good but was so far down the depth chart that he might have been forgotten up until now. Many radio callers are saying that the team should bring back former Raven Daniel Wilcox, who was a fan favorite but couldn't stay healthy last year. I say put both Drew and Smolko in there for a majority of the last two pre-season games after Heap gets his reps and let's see if they sink or swim.
Kelly Gregg's injury is no big deal to the defensive line, as he missed a huge portion of last season and we didn't miss a beat with Justin Bannan in his place. We now have a healthy Dwan Edwards as well as a plethora of others to man the d-line in so many combinations. Brandon McKinney and Kelly Talavou are just two names who contributed last year but are not exactly household names on this star-studded defense. However, both could probably start on many other NFL teams.
All in all, the injuries are just a part of the game. The team's mantra has always been "next man up," and will continue to be that way, as this team is deeper at most positions than it has ever seemed to be. While they are thin on the offensive line, their starters are as good as any other team and should be a major strength, providing they stay healthy. So for now, the team will reload and play out the final two exhibition games, giving some of the reserves the chance they need to earn a roster spot before the final cuts are announced over the next two weeks.