The Baltimore Ravens are just one week into the 2023 regular season and they already have several players at key positions who are already missing time and others who are slated to miss even more due to the severity of their setback.
Depending on the length of time they are expected to miss, the player(s) who will be stepping up in their place, and the pedigree of upcoming competition the team will face on the opposing side of the ball, some absences will be felt more than others.
How will the Ravens top injuries based on the compilation of those major factors impact the team?
OT Ronnie Stanley
When healthy, the Pro Bowler is one of the best blindside protectors in the game. Sadly, injuries and recovery setbacks from surgeries have prevented him from consistently proving that he still is among the league’s elite. Losing a player of his caliber for any amount of time is going to hurt even though they have a solid contingency plan in do-it-all utility lineman Patrick Mekari. With the slate of edge rushers that the Ravens have on the docket over the next month, Stanley’s knee sprain couldn’t have come at a worse time for a new offense that is still knocking off the rust, figuring out some kinks and intends to pass the ball more than in recent years.
Over the next four weeks, the offense will face three of the most talented and ferocious edge tandems in the league. Up first is two-time Pro Bowler Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard of the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. In Week 3, it will be the Pro Bowl tandem of Myles Garrett and former Raven Za’Darius Smith of the Cleveland Browns followed by three-time All-Pro T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 5. Even fully healthy Stanley would have his hands full with any of these potent pass rushers so both Mekari and right tackle Morgan Moses will have to be up to the challenge for however long their best pass blocker is out.
OL Tyler Linderbaum
The second-year pro is the anchor in the middle of the Ravens offensive line who many believe is poised to break out this season. Despite the overall struggles of his unit, Linderbaum finished as the highest-graded center in Week 1 and his presence will be sorely missed. While the Ravens have a solid and experienced contingency plan to fill in while he’s out of commission with an ankle sprain with veteran Sam Mustipher who has 40 career starts under his belt, there will still be a drop-off compared to when the 2022 first-round pick is in starting lineup.
Depending on how long he is out, the Ravens could be without their top interior offensive lineman when they face a pair of renowned run-stuffing nose tackles in DJ Reader in Week 2 and Dalvin Tomlinson in Week 4 with a bout with two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner of Indianapolis Colts wedged in between in Week 3.
CB Marlon Humphrey
The three-time Pro Bowler missed the season opener against the Texans as he was still recovering from foot surgery but Head Coach John Harbaugh told reporters on Monday that he “has a shot” to play in Week 2. If he could return when they travel to Cincinnati to take on a hungry Bengals team that will be itching to get on track after being shellacked in Week 1 by the Browns, it would be huge for the Ravens’ defense.
In his absence, the team turned to third-year pro Brandon Stephens who stepped in as their top cornerback and did his best Humphrey impression with how physical he was both in coverage and run support. Veteran Ronald Darby played well considering he is still less than a year removed from suffering a torn ACL but he gave a handful of catches that resulted in third-down conversions.
If Humphrey can return in time for Sunday, he and Stephens would give the Ravens their best chance to keep a lid on the Bengals explosive wide receiver duo of Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins. But if he misses a second straight game to open the season and the pass rush doesn’t repeat its impressive performance from Week 1, they could be in store for a tougher challenge in a pivotal early-season divisional matchup.
DB Marcus Williams
The seven-year veteran will miss a chunk of time during the regular season due to injury for the second year in a row since joining the team as a prized free agent signing last offseason. Williams is a true center fielder and one of the best ball hawks in the league who can close throwing windows and cover a lot of space in a very short amount of time. The only reason his absence isn’t ranked higher is because in 2022, the Ravens showed that they can still field a very stout defense without him although they did miss his playmaking ability in the backend while he was out.
Their plan last year was to start 2020 seventh-round pick Geno Stone in his place and they were still able to keep a lid on opposing offenses by preventing them from being able to consistently attack downfield with much success. Harbaugh also said Tuesday that he has “all the confidence in the world” that Stone is going to step up and perform well again. The team also signed 11-year veteran free safety Duron Harmon to the practice squad to further reinforce their depth a the position with an experienced player who possesses good ball skills.
RB J.K. Dobbins
The fourth-year pro is without question, the best player at his position on the Ravens’ roster when healthy. Unfortunately as has been the case with Stanley, he hasn’t been able to consistently stay on the field due to injuries and that trend will continue after he suffered a season-ending torn Achilles in the season opener.
Thankfully, the Ravens’ backfield cupboard is not only far from bare but it’s actually quite robust with talented options who are capable of stepping up and thriving in his absence. After he went out on Sunday, Justice Hill went on to score a pair of 2-yard touchdowns and Gus Edwards led all their running backs in rushing. They also have two-time Pro Bowler Melvin Gordon who is expected to be elevated from the practice squad and explosive undrafted rookie Keaton Mitchell who is currently on injured reserve but will be eligible to return as early as Week 5. This collection of gifted ball carriers can carry the load for the Ravens’ rushing attack whether it’s by committee or if a particular player seizes the reins.
OLB Tyus Bowser
The seventh-year pro has been out of commission since the the summer with a knee injury and opened the season on the Non-Football Injury list which means he also can return as early as Week 5 if healthy. The Ravens would love to have his versatile skill set at their disposal to further disguise pressures and coverages. However, Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald proved in Week 1 that he can get by without it for the time being by having fourth-year pro Malik Harrison help out on the edge and letting Odafe Oweh, David Ojabo, and Jadeveon Clowney primarily focus on rushing the passer which they did at a very high level on Sunday.
The Ravens will face several teams with suspect, leaky, and banged-up pass protecting offensive lines over the next month so their current bunch is well-equipped and poised to keep wreaking havoc until Bowser returns. Up next is a Bengals line that just gave up 10 quarterback hits and a pair of sacks followed by a Colts line that surrendered 4 sacks and 6 quarterback hits and then a Browns line that just lost two-time All-Pro right tackle Jack Conklin for the rest of the season with a torn ACL and MCL.