Baltimore’s 2021 NFL season was mired with injuries that would lead key players to be absent for extended periods, including many that missed all or the majority of the year. The Ravens aren’t known for giving out too much information on injuries over the years, but The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec was able to provide an update on some of Baltimore’s rehabbing players.
Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser signed a four-year contract to stay with the Ravens after the 2020 season and rewarded Baltimore with his best season as a pro to date. Bowser started every game of the year for the first time in his career and tallied career-highs in total tackles (59), sacks (7.0), tackles for loss (8.0), quarterback hits (15), and forced fumbles (2) just a year after recording three interceptions. The season ended on a sour note for Bowser, though, when he tore his Achilles tendon during the Ravens’ season finale against the Steelers.
As for a return, it was an extremely positive sign when Bowser came into the team’s offseason workouts without a boot or a limp only three months after surgery. Historically, Achilles tears take from nine to twelve months to come back from, but, recently, the Rams saw running back Cam Akers return to the field after only five and a half months of recovery. Baltimore, themselves, saw former star linebacker Terrell Suggs return to play only five months after surgery to repair his Achilles. The season opener would mark about eight months from Bowser’s surgery. Head coach John Harbaugh was quoted back in January saying, “I think Tyus will be back for the start of the season. I think Tyus will be back for training camp. That’s my prediction. That’s my timeline, so I’m going to stick with that.”
Here are a couple more notes from last year’s last-place team in the AFC North:
- On October 30, 2020, the Ravens made offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL with a five-year, $98.75MM extension. He was carted off the field with a season-ending injury two days later and has played in one game since. Baltimore is dying to see dividends from the historic contract they gave to Stanley, a deal that sent Orlando Brown packing in search of a team that would let him start at left tackle. General manager Eric DeCosta has admitted that he relied too much on having Stanley return to full strength last year when Stanley felt he was “rushed back…in order to play Week 1.” They’re being far more cautious in their optimism this time around as the team is being much more careful with the expectations being set on the 28-year-old. Stanley has told team officials that his ankle recovery is progressing more quickly than last offseason, but Harbaugh’s quote on Stanley two weeks ago reflected more of the cautiousness in their optimism as he said, “Ronnie’s mission right now would be to get in the best shape of his life and get ready to play football.”
- Like the rest of the league, Baltimore is in the process of figuring out who will make the cut for the final roster come late-August. One of the positions that provides a bit of interest for the Ravens is on the defensive line, as Zrebiec of The Athletic explained in a roster-projection earlier this week. With the return of Calais Campbell, Michael Pierce, and Brent Urban in free agency, as well as the draft-addition of Travis Jones, Zrebiec broached the situation of third-year defensive tackle Broderick Washington. Washington saw his role increase a bit in year-two of NFL play last year due to injuries to Campbell, Brandon Williams, and Derek Wolfe. Despite his increased experience, Zrebiec claims that Washington isn’t a lock to make the roster. The Ravens do like what they’ve seen from Washington, though, and believe he is “an ascending player,” so he’s at least trending in the right direction in terms of roster decisions.
- Perhaps the weakest position on the Ravens’ roster is the linebacker group. The team returns Patrick Queen, Josh Bynes, Malik Harrison, and Kristian Welch. Welch is mostly a special teamer, Harrison is still slowly returning from a non-life-threatening gunshot injury from last year, Bynes will be 33-years-old when the season begins, and Queen, while good at times, has yet to truly live up to his first-round potential. Baltimore did bring in three undrafted free agents in Josh Ross, Zakoby McClain, and Diego Fagot, but relying on those three to sure up the Ravens’ linebacking corps is asking a lot. Zrebiec does mention that Baltimore has several safeties that they can use in dime linebacker roles, which is a much more probable solution. Any of the Ravens’ strong safeties could slide down into a hybrid role. Tony Jefferson is a bit on the smaller side, but can still bring some hitting-power and coverage ability. Chuck Clark has excelled as a sixth-round pick during his five years in Baltimore but not necessarily for his ball-hawking ability. Sliding Clark down into a linebacker role could provide some benefit. Lastly, first-round draft pick Kyle Hamilton intrigued evaluators with his huge frame and versatility, with many comparing his traits and abilities to those of Derwin James. Hamilton’s size would place him nicely as an outside linebacker with elite coverage ability for the position. Regardless, Baltimore could see some benefit from trotting Queen and Bynes/Harrison out there and supplementing the linebacking group with a safety. I believe they’d rather work Hamilton or Clark out on the field than force Bynes, Harrison, or Welch into uncomfortable situations.