On a day of remarkably bad injury luck, there was nothing remarkable about how the Ravens lost two starters to season-ending knee injuries.
Coach John Harbaugh said Friday that starting cornerback Marcus Peters, the NFL’s most productive ballhawk since he entered the league in 2015, was pivoting on the practice field Thursday, “a basic turn that he makes dozens of times every single practice,” when his knee gave out.
Running back Gus Edwards, another projected starter and one of the league’s most efficient rushers, made a cut to his right, landed awkwardly on his ankle, “and the weight ended up going on his knee,” Harbaugh said.
“So that’s what happened,” he said. There wasn’t much else he could say. Two noncontact injuries, two players headed to injured reserve.
“I think you mourn,” he said. “We mourn for a day and we fight today. That’s what we do.”
The Ravens know who will replace Peters. Anthony Averett, who defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale says has “All-Pro talent,” will start opposite Marlon Humphrey at outside cornerback. Harbaugh said he’s confident in Averett, who’s entering the final year of his rookie contract, and praised him for work in training camp.
“He’s ready to go,” Harbaugh said, before rattling off the team’s other options in the secondary. “[Cornerback] Chris Westry’s ready to go. He’s done well. [Rookie defensive back] Brandon Stephens is ready to go. He’s done well. [Rookie safety] Ar’Darius Washington had a really good camp, so we’ve got guys, and those guys will take one step up from where they were, take on a little more responsibility and go.”
Safety Chuck Clark said “the sky’s the limit for Averett,” a former fourth-round pick. “We know what type of corner he is, what type of skill set he has. We’ve seen him in the past go out and cover top receivers in this league, and it’s been done quietly. Now it’s just time for him to go and do it all the time consistently.”
At running back, where the Ravens have lost top option J.K. Dobbins (knee), reserve Justice Hill (Achilles tendon) and now Edwards to season-ending injuries, there’s more uncertainty about who will seize the lead role. Ty’Son Williams, a training camp standout who had no carries as a rookie, is set to start Monday night against the Las Vegas Raiders.
But Latavius Murray, a reliable receiver and downhill runner who signed Friday, could ultimately emerge as the Ravens’ best option. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry and 7.7 yards per catch last season for the New Orleans Saints, who released him Tuesday after he refused to take a pay cut.
“I think his style’s a great fit,” Harbaugh said. “I mean, you guys have all watched him play. You’re football fans and you cover the game, so his style fits what we do. You’ve seen our offense. I think you can picture him pretty easily in that offense.”
The Ravens could also turn to practice squad running backs Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman, former All-Pros who have struggled in recent years. Harbaugh noted that Bell, who signed Wednesday after sitting out training camp, has looked good in practice but still needs “to get into football shape a little bit.” Freeman, who signed Thursday, spent camp with the New Orleans Saints before being released.
Trenton Cannon, who signed with the 53-man roster Wednesday, is considered more of a special teams contributor, though he has 48 carries for 146 yards over three NFL seasons.