OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Coming off their biggest win of the season to date, the Ravens are moving in the right direction at the outside linebacker position ahead of their Week 6 trip to play the New York Giants.
Working their way back from respective Achilles tendon tears sustained in the early months of 2022, outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and David Ojabo began their 21-day practice windows on Wednesday. Bowser, who began the season on the physically unable to perform list, suffered his injury in the 2021 season finale against Pittsburgh on Jan. 9 while Ojabo tore his Achilles at the University of Michigan’s Pro Day on March 18, a development that led to him falling to the second round of April’s draft where the Ravens selected him 45th overall. Ojabo was placed on the non-football injury list at the end of the preseason.
During the portion of practice open to reporters, Bowser and Ojabo worked separately from the rest of the outside linebackers as general manager Eric DeCosta watched closely.
Bowser’s healthy return would be a major shot in the arm for a defense that’s been forced to lean on 2021 first-round pick Odafe Oweh and inside linebacker Malik Harrison to play more snaps at the Sam linebacker position that requires much versatility. In his first full season as a starter last year, Bowser, 27, recorded seven sacks, 15 quarterbacks hits, and 59 tackles — all career highs — and logged at least 200 snaps in run defense, as a pass rusher, and in pass coverage, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Tyus is a proven vet, a very smart player,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “What he can do as a pass rusher, as a dropper, and just with his disguises and just understanding the playbook, he’s a guy that makes us so much better. And then the young buck, I think he has so much potential. I think everybody’s excited to see what he can do. We really just don’t know. You saw his potential — you see it every day really — but you definitely saw it when he was in college and just the energy he brings. It’s kind of exciting. You can see his strong confidence, and I can’t wait to see what he does when he’s out there.
“It’s just a matter of time. They’re getting healthy. They’re really pushing themselves to be out there. It’s coming soon. I can’t wait to get them out there.”
While a sixth-year veteran like Bowser is a known commodity, Ojabo’s rookie impact remains more of a mystery since he missed the entire spring and summer, a critical time in a rookie’s development. The 6-foot-4, 255-pound edge rusher wasn’t much of a factor at Michigan in 2020, but he blossomed under Mike Macdonald last season, registering 11 sacks and forcing five fumbles to put himself firmly in the first-round conversation before his Achilles injury. The Ravens loved his long-term upside as a raw pass-rushing prospect, the reason why they didn’t hesitate to take the 22-year-old in the second round despite the unclear status for his rookie year. Head coach John Harbaugh said Ojabo — a high school teammate of Oweh at Blair Academy in New Jersey — told him in the offseason that he’d be ready to go by October, a vow the rookie remains on track to fulfill.
Though Harbaugh confirmed Ojabo would not play against the Giants, he said it was “probably too early” to rule out the veteran Bowser for Week 6. However, considering the very deliberate ramp-up periods for other veteran players who’ve returned from serious injuries and the poor reputation of the playing surface at MetLife Stadium, Bowser would still seem unlikely to suit up on Sunday.
Seven Ravens players sat out Wednesday’s practice, a list including left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), wide receiver Rashod Bateman (foot), outside linebacker Justin Houston (groin), running back Justice Hill (hamstring), and guard Ben Cleveland (foot). The latter four didn’t play in last Sunday’s win over Cincinnati while Stanley played 22 snaps in his season debut rotating with Patrick Mekari, who played most of the second half at left tackle. Wednesday’s injury report indicated Stanley receiving a rest day.
Still on the PUP list after beginning his 21-day practice window last week, running back Gus Edwards was once again present and working as he moves closer to his return to game action from last year’s ACL injury.
After releasing cornerback Daryl Worley earlier this week, Baltimore re-signed the veteran defensive back to the practice squad on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the Giants had a very crowded injury report with 13 players from their 53-man roster absent or limited for Wednesday’s practice because of injury. Star running back Saquon Barkley (shoulder) was a limited participant, but his availability for Sunday is not expected to be in doubt.
Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Rashod Bateman (foot), DE Calais Campbell (rest), G Ben Cleveland (foot), RB Justice Hill (hamstring), OLB Justin Houston (groin), CB Marcus Peters (rest), OT Ronnie Stanley (rest/ankle)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: CB Cor’Dale Flott (calf), P Jamie Gillan (rest), WR Kenny Golladay (knee), S Tony Jefferson (foot), S Jason Pinnock (ankle), WR Kadarius Toney (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Saquon Barkley (shoulder), CB Darnay Holmes (quad), CB Adoree Jackson (knee/neck), FB Chris Myarick (ankle), DE Azeez Ojulari (calf), WR Wan’Dale Robinson (knee), QB Tyrod Taylor (concussion), DT Leonard Williams (knee)