The Ravens placed Willie Henry on injured reserve Tuesday, a significant blow to the team’s defensive line rotation and the defensive tackle’s promising career.
Henry’s injury was not announced, but he missed the first four games of the season while recovering from umbilical hernia surgery he underwent late in the preseason. A fourth-round pick in 2016, he was inactive for eight of the Ravens’ first nine games his rookie season and later was placed on season-ending injured reserve (thigh).
Henry played in 14 games last season, starting three, and led the team's defensive tackles and ends in sacks (3.5). After returning to action in Week 5 this month, he played in nearly half of the Ravens' defensive snaps against the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans. But he was limited to just 20 defensive snaps Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, less than 30 percent overall, and was seen limping around the locker room afterward.
Depending on the severity of Henry’s injury, the Ravens will face a tough roster decision in the coming weeks and months. Last month, coach John Harbaugh indicated that running back Kenneth Dixon and cornerback Maurice Canady were candidates to return from IR. NFL teams can bring back only two such players during a season.
Dixon and Canady cannot be activated to the 53-man roster until after Week 9 and Week 11, respectively. Henry is eligible to return after eight games himself, meaning his earliest possible appearance would next come in the Ravens’ regular-season finale.
While the Ravens have depth along the line, they have thrived with their defensive tackle-by-committee approach. On Sunday, Michael Pierce and Chris Wormley were the Ravens’ top-rated defensive players, according to Pro Football Focus. Brandon Williams was No. 7 and led the group with 45 snaps, still less than two-thirds of the defensive total.
With Henry on IR, the Ravens promoted practice squad offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor to the active roster. A fifth-round pick last year, the guard played in five games as a rookie but has not seen the field yet this year. With guard Alex Lewis (neck) and tackle James Hurst (back) absent for Sunday's game, the Ravens had just six offensive linemen available.