The Ravens knew they’d likely be without running back Danny Woodhead for an extended period the moment the veteran was carted off the field Sunday after grabbing his left hamstring and falling while running a pass route.
Woodhead, 32, spent much of training camp dealing with a hamstring problem and then was hurt on the team’s first offensive drive against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Reports indicate that he could be out anywhere from four to eight weeks, a significant blow to the Ravens who have just two running backs, Terrance West (Towson University, Northwestern High) and Buck Allen, on their 53-man roster.
It’s possible the Ravens put Woodhead on injured reserve and leave the option open of him being one of two players — cornerback Maurice Canady (knee) is a candidate to be the other — to come off IR and return later this year.
That, however, would mean the earliest Woodhead could return to game action is after the Week 10 bye, on Nov. 19 against the Green Bay Packers.
Regardless of whether Woodhead’s return comes earlier than that, later or not at all this year, the Ravens will likely need to add another running back and probably soon. Here are a few of their options:
Promote from their practice squad: The Ravens added two running backs to their practice squad — Jeremy Langford and Alex Collins — who once seemed ticketed for bigger roles elsewhere.
Langford started five games over the previous two seasons for the Chicago Bears, but an ankle injury and the emergence of Jordan Howard last year and Tarik Cohen this year dropped him down the depth chart and spurred his release. Langford, a fourth-round pick by the Bears in 2015, has 11 total touchdowns, 737 rushing yards, 41 catches and 421 receiving yards in 28 career games.
Collins, a fifth-round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2016, had 125 rushing yards and 84 receiving yards and caught all 11 balls thrown to him as a rookie. Seattle, though, has a crowded backfield and he was let go earlier this month.
The Ravens enticed him to join their practice squad despite Collins having several offers elsewhere.
Langford and Collins aren’t exact fits for the pass-catching role Woodhead figured to occupy. However, either player would certainly provide more gameday depth at the position and would be a capable roster replacement.
The Ravens could evaluate both players in practice this week and then make a decision by Saturday afternoon, when their roster has to be set ahead of Sunday’s home opener against the Cleveland Browns.
Look outside the organization for a replacement: Unlike offensive line and cornerback, running back is one position in the NFL where the supply far exceeds the demand.
Some teams, like the New Orleans Saints, appear to have more running backs than they know what to do with. No, I’m not suggesting the Ravens make a play for Adrian Peterson, although that rumor is apparently out there and alive and well.
Whether it’s signing a free agent, making a trade or plucking a back off another team’s practice squad, there are plenty of options for the Ravens.
It seems more likely that they promote Langford or Collins than go outside the organization for a solution, but they’ve been monitoring the running back situation with several teams in the NFL, so they know what’s out there and available. An outside addition shouldn’t be ruled out.
Stay the course and make no changes: It was interesting that immediately after Sunday’s game, quarterback Joe Flacco was asked about the loss of Woodhead. He acknowledged that the veteran’s absence would hurt and Flacco immediately brought up wide receiver Michael Campanaro as a potential replacement.
Campanaro has primarily been used in recent years on jet sweeps and on punt returns. He played 13 snaps of offense Sunday in the No. 4 wide receiver role. The former River Hill standout is slippery and quick and has good hands. Flacco trusts him. As long as Campanaro stays healthy, he certainly figures to get an opportunity to fill part of Woodhead’s role. Whether the coaching staff would line up Campanaro in the backfield, though, is unclear.
At some point, the Ravens will have to add a back, but they might feel they can get by for a couple of weeks relying on West, Allen and Campanaro to a lesser degree.
It’s certainly an option if their roster is stretched thin in other places.