OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens are riding high after a massive win over Kansas City in Week 2, but their secondary is dealing with new injury woes as they turn their attention toward the Detroit Lions.
Returning to the practice field on Wednesday afternoon, Baltimore was without starting safety DeShon Elliott (concussion) and slot cornerback Tavon Young (knee), who were both injured during Sunday’s 36-35 win over the Chiefs. Elliott exited late in the second quarter and didn’t return while Young appeared to get hurt on the penultimate defensive play of the game and was replaced by rookie Ar’Darius Washington for the final defensive snap. Young has twice torn the ACL in his left knee — in the spring of 2017 and in Week 2 last season — but it’s unclear which knee is the concern this time.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith (right ankle) was again listed as a limited participant and began practicing on Sept. 8, but he was deactivated for each of the first two games after missing most of training camp. With Elliott and Young both ailing, Smith’s return would be a welcome sight as the Ravens try to slow talented tight end T.J. Hockenson, who leads the Lions with 16 catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns through two games.
After signing cornerback Kevon Seymour to the practice squad last week and elevating him to play on special teams in Sunday’s victory, the Ravens officially added cornerback Linden Stephens to their practice squad on Wednesday. The 2018 undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati was with the Washington Football Team in the spring and summer before being waived at the end of the preseason.
Celebrating his 33rd birthday and coming off an impressive performance in his return to left tackle in place of the injured Ronnie Stanley (left ankle), Alejandro Villanueva received a veteran day off on Wednesday. Head coach John Harbaugh said he didn’t have an update on Stanley, so it appears likely that Villanueva will make his second straight start at left tackle after struggling at right tackle in the Week 1 loss at Las Vegas.
“He took the first game seriously. A lot of people doubted him [and] were saying all type of stuff about him,” quarterback Lamar Jackson said. “He moved from right tackle in the first game to left tackle to protect my blindside, and he aced it. He did a great job.”
The secondary isn’t the only place where the Ravens are hurting as nose tackle Brandon Williams (neck strain) and defensive end Derek Wolfe (back/hip) were absent from Wednesday’s practice. Williams left Sunday’s game in the the third quarter and didn’t return while Wolfe hasn’t practiced since Aug. 23 and appears in danger of missing his third straight game.
In a more positive development on the injury front, wide receiver Marquise Brown (left ankle) practiced on a limited basis after catching six passes for 113 yards and a touchdown in Week 2. The 2019 first-round pick missed two days of practice last week and admitted he wasn’t confident that he’d be able to play against the Chiefs. Based on the way he shined in prime time, you wouldn’t know he was less than full strength.
“I know people haven’t seen the best of him because his ankle wasn’t 100%,” Jackson said. “He was still able to do whatever he wanted to do out there — make guys miss, get open, beat defenders. The sky is the limit for him right now.”
With a quick turnaround after their Monday night loss at Green Bay, the Lions conducted a walk-through on Wednesday with veteran inside linebacker Jamie Collins being held out of practice due to trade talks reportedly heating up. Starting outside linebacker Trey Flowers (shoulder/knee) and starting wide receiver Tyrell Williams (concussion) were listed as non-participants on Detroit’s injury report.
Updates on rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman have been scarce since he underwent groin surgery on Aug. 13, but it remains unclear when the first-round pick will be back on the field. Bateman is eligible to return from injured reserve as early as Week 4, but you’d assume the Ravens will want him to accumulate some practice time to get into live-game shape after being sidelined for such a long period of time.
“We’ll see. That’s part of the process,” Harbaugh said. “It’s hard to predict that stuff as you know. I’ve tried to predict it before. It usually hasn’t worked out, so I’ll probably try to stay away from that.”
Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: S DeShon Elliott (concussion), OLB Justin Houston (non-injury), OT Ronnie Stanley (ankle), OT Alejandro Villanueva (non-injury), DT Brandon Williams (neck), DE Derek Wolfe (back/hip), CB Tavon Young (knee)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: WR Marquise Brown (ankle), CB Jimmy Smith (ankle)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: ILB Jamie Collins (non-injury), OLB Trey Flowers (shoulder/knee), WR Tyrell Williams (concussion)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: DE Michael Brockers (shoulder), OLB Romeo Okwara (shoulder), WR Kalif Raymond (thigh), DE Kevin Strong (concussion), RB D’Andre Swift (groin)
New names in familiar rushing territory
It’s been only 3 1/2 weeks since a horrific run of injuries decimated the running back room, but offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s ground game full of new names finds itself in familiar territory.
Led by the dynamic athleticism of Jackson and the impressive start to Ty’Son Williams’ NFL career, Baltimore leads the NFL at 220 rushing yards per game and 5.9 yards per rush attempt through Week 2. The Ravens also rank second in Football Outsiders’ rush DVOA metric, which measures efficiency.
They’ve been able to do it despite veteran newcomers like Latavius Murray not yet learning all of their teammates’ names while trying to get up to speed in the offense.
“I just think there’s a lot of ways that we can hurt you, and it starts with Lamar being beside you,” said the 31-year-old Murray, who’s rushed for a touchdown in each of the first two games. “Not knowing if he’s going to keep it or give it, that right there is just difficult in itself. Then, with all the different things that we’re doing, coming at you north and south and then getting the ball outside, it’s just tough on the defense. It keeps them on their toes, and it gives us the opportunity to really just hurt them.”
Rookie receives weekly honor
Fresh off a breakout performance in which he registered a hit leading to a Patrick Mahomes interception and forced and recovered a fumble on the final defensive drive in the 36-35 win over the Chiefs, rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday.
The first-round pick from Penn State is the fourth Baltimore rookie to win the award, joining inside linebacker Patrick Queen (Week 5, 2020), safety Chad Williams (Week 13, 2002) and Hall of Fame inside linebacker Ray Lewis (Week 1, 1996). Oweh is drawing plenty of national attention for his strong play over his first two games.
“People call him an athlete; I call him an ‘ath-elite’ because he’s like 6-foot-5, 250 [pounds] running a 4.4 [40-yard dash] chasing people down,” defensive tackle Justin Madubuike said. “The quarterbacks can’t get around him. They better figure that out pretty soon. They have to find another tactic for him.
“But he’s a beast. He just needs to keep growing, keep getting better. He’s going to be great for us.”