The Baltimore Ravens lucked out with their Week 1 opponent. They are still recovering from the injury wrecking ball that blasted through their roster last season. Fortunately for them, Lamar Jackson was back in his position as their starting quarterback for the first time since the second quarter of the Ravens’ Dec. 12 loss to the Cleveland Browns. More good fortune, their first 2022 regular season opponent was the lowly New York Jets
Jackson threw three touchdown passes and only ran the ball six times as the Ravens beat the Jets 24–9 in one of the non-dramatic games of the early window of NFL opening weekend. The win did come at a cost, however, with the Ravens losing two players who started in the game.
Ja’Wuan James missed all of 2021 with a ruptured left Achilles tendon and he was carted off of the field in the second quarter. It was later determined that he suffered the exact same injury in the exact same leg. Kyle Fuller left the Ravens’ Week 1 victory in the fourth quarter and John Harbaugh announced on Monday that he is out for the season with a torn ACL. Offensive line and cornerback are two position groups in which the Ravens are still recovering from last season.
Ronnie Stanley, normally the Ravens’ starting left tackle, is the best offensive lineman on the team. He has been dealing with ankle problems since 2020, and while he was activated from the PUP list in late August, Stanley still wasn’t ready to play in Week 1. There is still no guarantee that he will be ready for their home opener against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
The Ravens’ best cornerback, Marlon Humphrey, is back on the field after missing the final five games of last season with a torn pectoral muscle, but the defensive backfield still isn’t at full strength. Marcus Peters may be a boom or bust cornerback, but he is a playmaker who has twice been named first-team All-Pro — most recently in 2019. Peters missed the entire 2021 season after tearing his ACL four days before the Ravens’ season opener that year. Just like Stanley, he was not active Week 1 and there is no definitive word on if he will be able to play this coming Sunday.
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Stanley and Peters aren’t the only Ravens with injuries still lingering from 2021. The Ravens’ running backs room is still nowhere near full strength. J.K. Dobbins tore an ACL during a preseason game last season, and was not cleared to play against the Jets. Gus Edwards tore an ACL the week leading into the first game of the 2021 season — just like Peters — and he is still on the PUP list. Edwards will miss at least the first four games of 2022. Those injuries forced the Ravens to throw together a makeshift running backs room last season, and currently, they are doing the same with Kenyan Drake, Mike Davis, and Justice Hill.
Even a healthy Ravens roster is not perfect. The only wide receiver on the roster talented enough to warrant optimism is Rashod Bateman. He came on strong towards the end of last season when he recovered from a hamstring injury and averaged nearly 30 yards per catch on Sunday against the Jets. Mark Andrews continues to be an outstanding tight end, but after those two the Ravens’ pass-catching depth gets slim.
The Ravens only rushed for 63 yards against the Jets, but since they were up against one of the least talented teams in the NFL they were still able to pull out a comfortable victory. While the Ravens are sitting pretty at the moment, this run-first offense had better get it together soon. They have to play two 2021 top-10 DVOA defenses the next two weeks in the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills. While Stanley, Dobbins, and Peters might be able to play in those games, there is no guarantee.
With injuries still rearing their ugly head, it would be hard to be a Raven and not have your mind think last year’s disaster could rear its ugly head once again.
Sure a healthy Ravens’ depth chart has its holes, but how much less talent does that lineup have when compared to the rest of the AFC? The Ravens have a dynamic quarterback just like the Bills, the Los Angeles Chargers, and the Kansas City Chiefs. With their offensive line, secondary, and backfield fully intact, it’s plenty believable that the Ravens can contend for a Super Bowl appearance.
However, the games aren’t played on paper, they’re played in stadiums. Injuries are a part of all sports, but especially so in a collision sport like football. Dak Prescott is out for the next 6-8 weeks and T.J. Watt might miss this entire season. In sports, injury luck is an even more important factor in winning than talent. If the talent is unable to perform, it doesn’t matter if they’re on the roster.
If the Ravens were healthy they would’ve been in the hunt for the No. 1 seed in the AFC Playoffs throughout the entire 2021 season. Now it’s Week 2 of the 2022 season and they’re putting more names on IR before getting all of the names from last season’s list back on the field.
At best, the Ravens are the AFC team that can give the Bills and the Chiefs the best challenge. However, if their injury issues even approach the severity of last season, they’ll be lucky to find themselves in the postseason in the NFL’s most competitive conference.