Early in training camp this summer, the Ravens had a largely clean bill of health, with only quarterback Robert Griffin III sidelined. Now the team enters Thursday night’s clash against the Eagles in Philadelphia with a list of injuries affecting nearly every positional group. (The Ravens’ specialists are safe. For now.)
But football is a zero-sum game, and for every snap a player loses to injury, someone else must pick it up. One opportunity forfeited is another gained.
Ahead of the Ravens’ third preseason game, here are eight Ravens who could stand to benefit from the team’s recent injury bug:
QB Trace McSorley
McSorley will play his first road game in the NFL at a stadium populated by more than a few Penn State fans. But their support will mean only so much if the former Nittany Lions star continues to give the ball away.
The rookie threw his second interception in as many preseason games last week against Green Bay, and the Packers nearly turned a fourth-quarter pass into a pick-six. In Tuesday’s joint practice against the Eagles, he overthrew open receivers late in 11-on-11 action, then tried to make up for the misses with a pair of throws that were intercepted.
McSorley’s most extensive playing time should come next week, when starter Lamar Jackson is expected to sit, but the rookie needs a pick-me-up performance. The Ravens seem committed to keeping him on their season-opening roster, especially with Griffin (fractured hand) still not cleared to practice fully, but more turnovers will raise more questions.
RB Tyler Ervin
With cornerback Cyrus Jones’ roster spot far more secure after Tavon Young’s potentially season-ending neck injury, Ervin could make the team as a punt returner, as Janarion Grant did last year. He’s produced there already through two preseason games, returning four punts for a combined 45 yards, with just one fair catch. (Jones, the Gilman product, has four fair catches and no returns.)
But Ervin will need to step up as a running back Thursday. He got four carries in the Ravens’ preseason opener and finished with just 5 yards. Last week, he rushed twice for 9 yards and added two catches on two targets for 15 yards.
With running backs Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon limited in practice Tuesday after missing Monday’s session, the Ravens should have more minutes at the position to go around. That could bode well for Ervin: He’s played just 18 snaps on offense this preseason, but he’s touched the ball on eight of those plays.
WR Michael Floyd
Floyd was probably the most impressive of the Ravens’ on-the-bubble wide receivers during the team’s joint practices, especially when Jackson was at quarterback. But the former first-round pick and free-agent signing is running out of time to translate his practice performance to game action.
Over two weeks, Floyd has played a combined 56 offensive snaps and has been targeted zero times. (Unofficially, he’s been targeted once, drawing a 34-yard penalty for defensive pass interference against the Jacksonville Jaguars after getting a step on a defender deep.) No matter how well he’s practicing, it’ll be impossible to justify a receiver who doesn’t make catches in meaningful action, especially given the younger options the Ravens have.
With Marquise “Hollywood” Brown expected to sit out Thursday’s game and Miles Boykin having missed two of the past three practices, Floyd will get repetitions. But so will Antoine Wesley and Jaleel Scott.
OL Bradley Bozeman, Ben Powers and Patrick Mekari
Less than 10 days out from the deadline for roster cuts, the Ravens seem no closer to settling on their rostered offensive linemen, much less their starting five. Inconsistency was the problem early in training camp. Lately, injuries have been to blame.
On Saturday, the Ravens returned to practice after their win over the Packers missing reserves Randin Crecelius and Greg Senat and starter Marshal Yanda, who’s expected to be ready for Week 1. On Tuesday, the Ravens finished practice in Philadelphia with those three still out and another two likely starters sidelined. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley had his left ankle wrapped, and Jermaine Eluemunor was not present after being carted off the field Monday with an undisclosed injury.
So it was Bozeman who started at left guard and Powers at right guard, with Mekari playing on the second-team line. If Stanley and Eluemunor don’t play Thursday, the Ravens would lean on those three heavily. James Hurst is their healthiest option at left tackle, freeing up interior reps for others throughout the game. Expect Bozeman and Mekari to share snaps at guard and center while Powers remains at guard.
DT Daylon Mack
Mack made headlines at Ravens training camp when he discovered his pickup truck filled to the brim with packing peanuts after one practice, punishment for his failure to deliver Big Texas cinnamon rolls to the defensive line room.
But the fifth-round pick’s practice performance Tuesday was a reminder that, yeah, he’s a pretty promising defensive tackle, too. Mack blew up some plays in 11-on-11 action, flashing the talent that helped him finish with 5½ sacks and 9½ tackles for loss in a breakthrough senior season at Texas A&M.
Given Mack’s regular attendance at training camp, his roster prospects have never been in doubt. But with undrafted free agent Gerald Willis absent for Tuesday’s practice after being limited Monday, Mack could get more time in the rotation behind Michael Pierce and Brandon Williams. He played 19 and 20 snaps in the Ravens’ first two games, respectively.
CB Maurice Canady
At this point, Harbaugh’s list of cornerbacks who can stand in for Young as a slot cornerback seems as long as the depth chart itself. Even outside cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith have experience there, Harbaugh said Tuesday. Depending on the matchup, the Ravens could also deploy a backup safety as a nickel back.
But experience matters, and Canady has taken on slot receivers during his injury-slowed Ravens career. Even at Virginia, his most productive season came as a junior, when, playing mostly as a nickel back, he finished second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in pass breakups and passes defended.
Jones is the team’s top slot option for now, but rookie cornerback Iman Marshall’s undisclosed injury has given Canady’s roster chances another boost. A solid performance Thursday would be hard to ignore: The Eagles might start Carson Wentz — the Ravens have yet to face a No. 1 quarterback this preseason — and he’ll be throwing to maybe the NFL’s top receiving corps.