Needing healthy bodies and looking to give their struggling special teams units a boost, the Ravens Saturday promoted undrafted rookie free agent inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor from the practice squad to the active roster.
Onwuasor, a converted safety out of Portland State who impressed team officials with his physicality in training camp, is expected to play Sunday when the Ravens (3-2) take on the New York Giants (2-3) at MetLife Stadium.
To make room for Onwuasor on the 53-man roster, the Ravens waived offensive lineman Billy Turner, who they had just claimed off waivers from the Miami Dolphins Wednesday. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Friday that Turner would need another week learning the team’s offense before he was ready to play in a game.
With a lengthy injury list and wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. (ankle), right guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder), left tackle Ronnie Stanley(foot), strong-side linebacker Elvis Dumervil (foot), inside linebacker C.J. Mosley (hamstring) and kick returner Devin Hester Sr. (thigh) all not expected to play against the Giants, the Ravens needed to add another player who would be available Sunday.
The release of Turner is seemingly an indication that right tackle Rick Wagner, who is questionable with a thigh injury, should be active for the game. With Yanda and Stanley doubtful to play, the Ravens will likely use rookie Alex Lewis and Wagner at the two tackle spots with John Urschel and Ryan Jensen playing guard and Jeremy Zuttah starting at center.
That would leave tackle James Hurst and guard Vladimir Ducasse, who was signed Tuesday, as the two reserve offensive linemen. The team may also opt to start Hurst at right tackle if it doesn’t believe Wagner is ready to play the full game.
Onwuasor had an eventful training camp, angering several of his teammates with big hits during practice. Onwuasor had words with fullback Kyle Juszczyk and running back Buck Allen among others, and his late shove of running back Kenneth Dixon resulted in the rookie fourth-round pick missing some time with a knee injury.
In his senior season at Portland State, Onwuasor had nine interceptions and 85 tackles. The Raven used him in the hybrid safety/linebacker role in training camp. They are relatively thin at the middle linebacker position with Mosley sidelined with a hamstring injury and Albert McClellan also questionable to play with a sore calf.
However, Onwuasor’s promotion is more motivated by the coaching staff’s desire to fortify the special teams units. Onwuasor is a fast and physical player and he figures to help the coverage teams after the Ravens allowed long punt returns in back-to-back weeks, including an 85-yard touchdown by the Washington Redskins’ Jamison Crowder last Sunday.