The Ravens will start the season with their top draft pick on the sideline.
In a blow to the team’s passing game, the Ravens placed first-round pick Rashod Bateman and fellow wide receiver Miles Boykin on injured reserve Wednesday. Tight end Eric Tomlinson, in a corresponding move, was also signed to their 53-man roster.
Bateman, a projected starter who underwent groin surgery last month, and Boykin, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury, will miss at least the first three weeks of the season. They’re eligible to return for the Ravens’ Week 4 game against the Denver Broncos.
Coach John Harbaugh said in mid-August that Bateman would return from surgery “sometime in September,” raising hopes that the No. 27 overall pick would be available for at least one of the Ravens’ games that month. Instead, Bateman and Boykin will miss the season opener against the host Las Vegas Raiders, a Week 2 showdown in Baltimore with the Kansas City Chiefs and a Week 3 trip to Detroit to face the Lions.
With the return of projected starters Sammy Watkins and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to practice this week, the Ravens are set to enter the season with five wide receivers on their roster available: Devin Duvernay, James Proche II, rookie Tylan Wallace, Watkins and Brown.
Tight end Nick Boyle, still recovering from a knee injury, could also be limited throughout September. Tomlinson, acquired in November last year, stepped in for Boyle after his season-ending surgery and impressed the Ravens with his blocking ability. He joins Mark Andrews and Josh Oliver in the Ravens’ tight end room, along with fullback Patrick Ricard.
If Bateman and Boykin return in Week 4, it could be good timing. According to Pro Football Focus’ preseason rankings of NFL secondaries, the Ravens will face a group rated no higher than No. 18 (Kansas City) through Week 3. The Broncos, however, were ranked No. 1, and the Ravens’ next two games are against the Indianapolis Colts (No. 13) and Los Angeles Chargers (No. 14).
Still, the duo’s absence will hinder their assimilation into coordinator Greg Roman’s offense. While on IR, players may not practice, though they can still attend team meetings. Because of quarterback Lamar Jackson’s coronavirus infection at the start of camp, he did not overlap with Boykin at practice, and had Bateman available for only a limited time before the rookie hurt his groin.
“I worked with those guys before they went down,” Jackson said last week of the then-absent Bateman, Brown and Watkins. “So I think when they come back, we’ll be hitting right where we started off at. But we have guys who came in, who have been working very hard and have been doing a tremendous job since those guys have been out. When they get back, we’re going to go from there. We’re not worried about it, because we know they’ve been working hard, and we’ve been working hard as well.”
With Wednesday’s roster moves, the Ravens have space on their roster for one more player. Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who did not make the team’s initial 53-man roster Tuesday, is considered a prime candidate to return.