Patrick Mekari

Ravens Place Robert Griffin III On IR

The hamstring injury Robert Griffin III suffered Wednesday in Pittsburgh will result in a prolonged absence. This could complicate matters for the Ravens.

While RG3 going on IR would not normally affect Baltimore’s starting lineup, it is not yet known if Lamar Jackson will be ready to return when first eligible to come off the Ravens’ reserve/COVID-19 list. Jackson tested positive for the coronavirus on Nov. 26 and cannot return to practice until Sunday. The Ravens will host the Cowboys on Tuesday night.

Baltimore used third-stringer Trace McSorley — who was recently activated from the COVID list — at the end of Wednesday’s loss to the Steelers. He would be in line to start for the Ravens against the Cowboys, should Jackson require more recovery time.

RG3 struggled against the Steelers but brings extensive NFL experience McSorley obviously lacks. An eighth-year NFL vet, Griffin has been Jackson’s backup for three years. Griffin cannot resume his QB2 duties until at least Week 16.

While the Ravens will be without Griffin for a while, they did receive word Friday they will have more depth available against Dallas. Baltimore activated J.K. Dobbins, Matt Skura, Patrick Mekari and Pernell McPhee from the virus list.

The Ravens held Dobbins and Mark Ingram out of their thrice-rescheduled game in Pittsburgh. Both backs tested positive for COVID-19 but would have been eligible to return for Week 12. Dobbins being back in action will be a boon to a Ravens team suddenly on thin ice with regards to playoff qualification.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Postpones Ravens-Steelers Due To COVID-19

Thursday’s game between the Ravens and Steelers has been postponed due to a rash of positive COVID-19 tests. Now, the two teams are set to meet on Sunday afternoon, though the league will continue to monitor the situation between now and then.

We learned yesterday that Baltimore was dealing with 10 total coronavirus cases, including five players. As Dan Graziano of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter), the Ravens have actually had seven players test positive over the past three days: RBs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins — which we already knew about — QB Trace McSorley, OLB Pernell McPhee, DE Calais Campbell, C Matt Skura, and G/C Patrick Mekari, all of whom will be placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. As such, the league really had no other choice but to push back the game.

Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network points out that the league did not make the decision because the Ravens would have been extremely shorthanded. After all, the players who tested positive won’t be allowed to play on Sunday either. Instead, a number of Baltimore players are (obviously) close contacts with those who tested positive, and the NFL wants to make sure the spread is contained (Twitter link).

Unfortunately, things could get worse for the Ravens. Per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the league and the team know how the outbreak began, and there is a chance more players will test positive. By Friday, the NFL expects to know if everything is under control or if the game will need to be postponed again.

If another postponement becomes necessary, this game will likely be the first one set in on the novel Week 18. The Ravens are scheduled to play the Cowboys next Thursday, so the league will not make them play a game on Monday or Tuesday before a Thursday night contest.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Bench C Matt Skura

The Ravens are making a bold move in advance of this afternoon’s critical matchup with the Titans. Per Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com, Baltimore is benching starting center Matt Skura. Second-year pro Patrick Mekari will get the nod in Skura’s stead.

Skura has had issues snapping the ball in each of the past two weeks. In a win over the Colts in Week 9, the problem was attributed to a cut on his hand, and in the team’s loss to the Patriots last week, the heavy rains throughout the game certainly didn’t help. Still, poor snaps torpedoed two second-half drives against New England, and head coach John Harbaugh said afterwards, “[the rain’s] not an excuse — we still have to make our snaps. They made their snaps.”

The Ravens’ offense has struggled to get in a rhythm this season, and the O-line play has been a big reason for that. The unit has often struggled to give QB Lamar Jackson ample time to throw, and it has generally been unable to open running lanes for Jackson and Baltimore’s stable of RBs. Losing RG Marshal Yanda to retirement in the offseason was obviously a major blow, and LT Ronnie Stanley went on season-ending IR with a severe ankle injury earlier this month. Yanda’s replacement, rookie Tyre Phillips, has also missed time due to injury.

Like the other members of the Ravens’ offensive front, Skura played well in 2019, though his season was cut short thanks to ACL, MCL and PCL tears that he suffered nearly one year ago today. The fact that he sufficiently recovered from that injury in time to participate in the team’s first padded practice this summer was remarkable, but it’s possible that he’s still not back to full strength.

Mekari has started three games at guard this year, and his move to the pivot will allow 2019 fourth-rounder Ben Powers to get his first start of his pro career at right guard, as Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic tweets. Skura, meanwhile, will have a chance to return later in the season once he has had the opportunity to clear his head.

The former UDFA out of Duke is playing out the 2020 campaign on the low-level RFA tender (though if he hadn’t gotten injured, the Ravens may have needed to use a higher tender on him). He had the chance to position himself well for a big payday this offseason, but unless things improve quickly, he may need to settle for a modest one-year pact in 2021.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Ravens Sign Gerald Willis, 16 Other UDFAs

Stationed on ESPN’s “best available” graphic for hours on Day 3 of the draft, Gerald Willis found a home in Baltimore. The Ravens made the defensive lineman part of their UDFA contingent. Here is the rest of the team’s 17-man group:

Rated as the No. 76 overall prospect on Mel Kiper Jr.’s big board, Willis earned second-team All-American honors by finishing with 18 tackles for loss and four sacks last season. However, character issues likely led to his slide. Florida dismissed the talented defender earlier in his career, and some Miami coaches were skeptical of his NFL future.

The Ravens are continuing their rookie-heavy approach to staffing their wide receiver spots, this trio following Marquise Brown and third-round pick Miles Boykin. Smith, who had his best college season (a 60-catch, 980-yard, seven-touchdown 2017) when playing with Lamar Jackson, will rejoin the developing passer. Wesley’s 1,410 receiving yards ranked third in Division I-FBS last season.