Back on August 28th, starting running back J.K. Dobbins tore his ACL in the team’s final preseason game. Then just four days later, fellow rusher Justice Hill tore an Achilles, and yesterday, both running back Gus Edwards and cornerback Marcus Peters went down with what is feared to be a torn ACL, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The concern for both players — Marcus Peters and Gus Edwards — is a torn ACL, sources say. They both will have tests to confirm. Just terrible. https://t.co/K9GpDU0SI7— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 9, 2021
So, that means Baltimore heads to Las Vegas down a starting corner and running back, the replacement to said running back, and the replacement to the replacement of said running back.
While of course, the health of those players is the primary concern here as injuries are always terrible to hear about, regardless of what team the player plays for. But from the Raiders’ perspective, natural and fair questions to ask are, who’s left for the Ravens and how do these losses impact their game plan?
We’ll start by diving into probably the biggest and most significant loss of the bunch, and that’s Peters. Baltimore is known for having one of the best secondaries in the league and he is a big reason why.
Now, the Ravens still have Marlon Humphrey as their “CB1”, who is one of the top players in the NFL at the position, but they do lack depth at cornerback.
Tavon Young will probably step in as Peters’ replacement. Young has shown promise in the past, finishing the 2016 season with two interceptions, six pass breakups, a passer rating of 95.1 when targeted and a PFF coverage grade of 75.2. However, those figures weren’t as pretty in 2018, Young’s most recent full-season, as he compiled one pick, four PBUs, a 100.4 passer rating and 62.6 grade.
What about 2017, 2019 and 2020? Well, he tore an ACL and missed all of 2017, suffered a neck injury in 2019 that sidelined him for the season, and tore another ACL just 39 snaps into the 2020 campaign. So, the six-year veteran hasn’t really played in about two years.
Per OurLads.com, Young would be the Ravens’ starting slot corner even if Peters was healthy, so regardless of whether they move the former to the outside or not, Baltimore will have to reach down into their depth chart for another corner.
Jimmy Smith is the most recognizable option because he’s been around since 2011. However, at 33-years-old, he’s not the player he used to be and is coming off an injury, and on Tuesday Kevin Oestreicher of Ravens Wire suggested that Smith might not be ready to play on Monday. Granted, Peters going down yesterday could speed Smith’s timetable up.
The other element to consider is when I talked to Baltimore Beatdown’s Spencer Schultz to preview the Monday Night Matchup, Schultz mentioned that Smith might be the Ravens’ best option to matchup with Darren Waller. So, that could throw a wrench into defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s game plan if the veteran corner has to play out wide.
If Martindale wants to keep Young inside and either rest Smith or match him up with Waller, his next option would be to turn to Anthony Averett.
The four-year pro has primarily been a backup throughout his career, but he did start in Weeks 15 through 17 of the regular season and in the Wild Card game last season. He played well down the stretch, allowing just 95 yards and a 98.9 passer rating in coverage while accumulating four pass breakups.
It’s also worth noting that Averett was much better in zone coverage than man - a 69.3 coverage grade versus 49.5 - and that aligns with Humphrey’s strength as well. So, Martindale’s play-calling might not have to change too much with Alabama product in the game rather than Peters. But, I would expect to see a lot fewer blitzes from the Ravens, given the short timeline to gameplan and adjust to being short-handed in the secondary.
While this isn’t going to impact the game, I feel compelled to bring up that Baltimore traded rookie cornerback Shaun Wade to the Patriots two weeks ago for a fifth- and a seventh-round pick. That’s a move I bet they regret now.
When Dobbins went down a couple of weeks ago, there was no doubt it was a loss for Baltimore. He’s an up-and-coming back who can affect the passing game as well as the rushing attack, but it was far from the end of the world for them.
Edwards is capable of taking on a full workload and was likely going to be a big factor in their offense anyway. However, with him gone and third-stringer Hill also on the shelf, head coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman can now start to panic.
Baltimore now has two running backs on the active roster, Ty’Son Williams and Trenton Cannon. If you’re asking yourself, who? Don’t worry, me too.
Williams is a 2020 undrafted free agent who has yet to see any regular-season action - something tells me that’s going to change soon - but did put together an impressive preseason last month. He had 24 carries for 130 yards - 5.4 yards per attempt - one touchdown and an impressive 3.42 yards after contact per attempt. He also caught all eight targets thrown his way and tacked on 37 yards as a receiver.
As for Cannon, he’s primarily been a special teamer throughout his career, only touching the ball 68 times for 306 yards in three years. So, I wouldn’t expect him to get much playing time on Monday regardless of the circumstances, and especially since the Ravens have a couple of notable backs on the practice squad...
On Tuesday, Baltimore signed Le’Veon Bell to the practice squad, and after Edwards went down, the organization added Devonta Freeman to the mix, too.
Before yesterday’s injuries, ESPN’s Jamison Hensley tweeted that Harbaugh thinks there’s a chance Bell gets activated for Monday night, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say he will now, and Adam Schefter said the plan for is for Freeman to get promoted as well.
While both players’ primes are behind them, the Ravens really don’t have much of a choice but to at least suit up both of them. I’d expect Bell to get more action since he’s been in the building a little longer - two days - and brings more to the table as a receiver. Plus, Freeman has a similar profile to Williams, so I don’t think the veteran brings anything much different than what the team already has, other than experience.
However, I’d expect Baltimore to deploy some sort of rotation with Bell, Freeman and Williams, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the latter ends up leading the group in touches.
Also, the obvious here is to expect Roman to dial up a few more pass plays, which could help Las Vegas’ defense out, especially the linebackers and safeties. Instead of having to worry about playing the run first and getting beat over the top with play-action, the Silver and Black defenders can play back to front and just try to contain Lamar Jackson.
Granted, that last part is easier said than done.