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Late For Work 7/25: Kenneth Dixon Undergoes Knee Surgery; Ravens Bringing Back RB Bobby Rainey

Posted Jul 25, 2017

Ranking Ravens’ position groups from strongest to weakest. Why it’s smart to keep Waller on the roster. Updates on Anquan Boldin, Gary Barnidge and Zachary Orr. Things to fret about, or nah?


Ravens Bring Back RB Bobby Rainey As Kenneth Dixon Undergoes Knee Surgery

Well look who’s coming back.

The Ravens are planning to re-sign Bobby Rainey, according to The Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec. The move is precipitated by second-year running back Kenneth Dixon’s suspension, and now, his reported knee injury.

Zrebiec reports Dixon tore his meniscus while training, which usually takes 6-8 weeks for recovery, but the Ravens won’t know for sure until after he has surgery today.  

Dixon has dealt with knee injuries in the past. He missed the first four games of the season last year after suffering a knee injury in the third preseason game. Prior to the injury, there was chatter that the rookie could start, but Terrance West beat veteran Justin Forsett for the job early in the season and never looked back.

As Zrebiec said, the seriousness of Dixon’s knee is unknown, but he has more than two months before he can play due to his four-game suspension.

Meanwhile, Rainey is reportedly rejoining the team, which will be a welcome sight for some fans. Many hated to see Rainey go in 2013.

The 5-foot-8 running back joined the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He had a standout preseason the next year, but Baltimore couldn’t find a way to keep him on the 53-man roster. They wanted him on the practice squad, but the Cleveland Browns claimed him off waivers.

“We like Bobby. It was unfortunate that we lost him,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said in 2014, when Rainey returned to M&T Bank Stadium as the starting running back for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“We really wanted him to be here to be a part of what we were doing, but he got claimed and we had to make a move there. I don’t know what happened, [but] he somehow got down to Tampa Bay, and the rest is history.”

Well, history has taken another turn as Rainey is back in Baltimore after stops with the Browns, Bucs and New York Giants. He has not started a game since 2014, but he has played in 31 of 32 games over the past two years.

Rainey joins a tight competition in the backfield, as West and Woodhead are locks to make the roster if healthy. Plus, there’s Buck Allen, Taquan Mizzell, Lorenzo Taliaferro (tailback/fullback) and Ricky Ortiz (fullback).

Ranking Ravens’ Position Groups From Strongest to Weakest

Every team has its strengths and weaknesses. What are the Ravens’?

That has yet to be determined because, well, training camp hasn’t started. Players haven’t even been able to hit yet.

So, looking at what the Ravens have on paper, Russell Street Report’s Kyle Casey ranked the team’s position groups from strongest to weakest. His rankings are below, and offer an opinion on each:

1. Safety 
It’s hard to disagree with this as the top pick. Not only do the Ravens have Pro Bowler (Eric Weddle) and one of the top free agents of the offseason (Tony Jefferson) entrenched as starters, but there is strong depth with eight-year veteran Lardarius Webb. Some believe this unit might be the best in the NFL.

2. Special Teams
Justin Tucker is arguably the league’s best kicker. Just start right there with this group. He’s never missed an extra point, and only missed one field goal last year due to a blocked kick. We’re just waiting for him to get the chance to set an NFL record for the longest field goal (64 yards, Matt Prater). Add in the very solid “Wolfpack” (punter Sam Koch and long snapper Morgan Cox) and a well-coached coverage unit, and you can see why Casey ranks this group so high.

3. Edge Rusher 
Terrell Suggs is a monster and there’s tons of young, talented and intriguing options behind him. But because Suggs is on the back-nine of his career and the young guys are unproven, one could argue this rating is a tad high. But I do find this one of the most exciting positions to watch as Matt Judon, Za’Darius Smith, Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams grow. Who knows? Maybe more than one could catch fire.

4. Wide Receiver 
This is a solid group with Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace as the likely starters. But what could take the unit to a whole other level is a Breshad Perriman breakout. The 2015 first-round pick had one of the team’s best offseasons.

5. Defensive Line
 
I’d put this one higher. Maybe at No. 3. When you have Brandon Williams entering his prime and anchoring this group, that alone is worth moving up the list. Last year’s surprise undrafted rookie Michael Pierce is a stud. The Ravens lost Lawrence Guy and traded Timmy Jernigan, but at least one, if not more, of the young guys (Bronson KaufusiChris Wormley and Carl Davis) should step up.

6. Quarterback 
The Ravens will live or die off this position. We know Joe Flacco is a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback. The question is whether he will return to that level of play another year removed from his knee surgery.

7. Cornerback 
When healthy, this unit is a bigger strength. The group needs a little luck after being hit hard by the injury bug the last couple years, and already likely losing standout second-year corner Tavon Young. He probably would’ve been the nickel corner. But there’s more depth than in years past, and Jimmy Smith says he feels so good that this could be one of his best years. Durable free-agent signee Brandon Carr will likely start on the other side of Smith, but don’t be surprised if first-round rookie Marlon Humphrey sneaks into that spot at some point this season.

8. Running Back 
I get this ranking because there are just too many moving parts to know what to expect after the unit ranked 28th in the league last year. The four-game suspension of Kenneth Dixon is a “major blow” says Casey. Danny Woodhead is new to the team and coming off ACL surgery, but he looks to build off a strong start with Flacco in minicamp. Terrance West will likely return as the starter. With Greg Roman hired to the coaching staff, will there be a bigger commitment to the run game after a franchise-low 367 rushing attempts last year?

9. Offensive Line 
What we know is that half the line is more than solid with Ronnie Stanley, Alex Smith and Marshal Yanda. What we don’t know is how James Hurst (right tackle) and Ryan Jensen or John Urschel (center), or a potentially yet-to-be-signed veteran, will perform as starters.

10. Inside Linebacker 
I get why Casey put this group at No. 10 since the team will have a new starter next to C.J. Mosley, but I don’t think that’s enough to drop it this low. Mosley has been to two Pro Bowls in three seasons. At this time last year, we didn’t know Zachary Orr would be as good as he was. The Ravens have a history of finding and developing inside linebackers, so there’s confidence that Kamalei Correa can take over the job. And, if he doesn’t, there’s still Patrick Onwuasor or Albert McClellan. Things still have to be settled, but I’m not too worried about this group.

11. Tight End 
“The unfortunate reality of this spot on the list is that a completely healthy tight end unit in Baltimore is probably one of the better ones in AFC,” wrote Casey. I agree. Even with the losses of Dennis Pitta (hip) and Darren Waller (suspension), this position has the biggest boom or bust potential because there’s plenty of both experience (Benjamin Watson, Crockett Gillmore) and young talent (Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle). The problem is keeping them on the field. If they do, they could fly up this list.

Why It’s Smart to Keep Waller on the Roster

Speaking of tight ends, some have asked why the Ravens kept Waller on the roster despite his year-long suspension.

There are a couple reasons, says Zrebiec.

“They still might [cut him], but the NFL generally frowns on teams dropping players after suspensions for substance abuse. Once players become part of the drug program, the league wants teams to help offenders deal with their dependency problems rather than turning their back on them.”

And while Waller receives treatment through the program, it really doesn’t hurt the Ravens to keep him on the team because he doesn’t take up a roster spot or use salary cap space.

“Why not see whether the year away from football allows Waller, who is talented yet mistake-prone, to turn his life around and move beyond the drug trouble that also dogged him in college?” asked Zrebiec. “Watson and Crockett Gillmore are free agents after the 2017 season. If Waller is reinstated, he could end up being a key piece next year.”

Updates on Anquan Boldin, Gary Barnidge and Zachary Orr

There’s been discussion about whether three free agents could land in Baltimore, but their visits with other teams indicates they are looking at homes outside of Baltimore.

Wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who the Ravens said they’d be interested in re-signing, visited the Buffalo Bills Monday. He’d have the chance to reunite with quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who was the backup in Baltimore in 2011-12 before Boldin was traded to the San Francisco 49ers.

“I could be completely wrong on this, but my gut feeling was that the ship sailed on a Boldin reunion when the Ravens signed Maclin,” wrote Zrebiec. “Again, though, that’s just my unconfirmed opinion.”

Tight end Gary Barnidge is scheduled to visit the Jacksonville Jaguars today. Barnidge has been on the market for some time, but he said the Ravens haven’t reached out. The loss of Pitta didn’t move the Ravens to give him a ring. Would the suspension of Waller? Perhaps not, especially with the return of Williams to the field.

And finally, Orr visited the Houston Texans Monday, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson. This visit comes after Orr visited the Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets immediately following his announcement that he isn’t retiring.

“Orr, 25, has consulted with multiple spine specialists after initially being advised by Ravens team doctors that it wasn't safe for him to play football anymore,” Wilson wrote. “Since that diagnosis, though, Orr has sought second opinions and says he has received favorable medical information that his risk of a serious injury isn't higher than other players.

“In order for Orr to play football again, though, he would have to pass a physical. A scan revealed last season that Orr's first cervical vertebrae at the top of his spine didn't fully form.”

Things to Fret About, or Nah?

In a recent column, Zrebiec put into perspective some issues that you may be wondering about …

1)     Flacco not getting together with his receivers for throwing sessions between minicamp and training camp. “Look, I’m the first one to say this is a tired and overblown storyline,” wrote Zrebiec. He goes on, but I’ll end it right there.

2)     The annual failed conditioning test. Rookie fifth-round pick Jermaine Eluemunor was the first this year to be placed on the non-football injury list last week for not immediately passing the test, but he passed it the next day. With veterans reporting Wednesday, another failed test or two are bound to occur. “[It] has become an annual rite of the summer. It happened with Haloti Ngata, Jacoby Jones, Webb and Wallace. As embarrassing as it might be for a veteran to fail, Wallace proved last year that it’s not a big deal.”

3)     Campanaro starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP). The training camp PUP is different from the regular season PUP. Campanaro, or any other player that starts on it, can come off at any time. Even a day or two into camp. “In other words, it’s way too early to get worked up about such a move. I get that there’s some skepticism involving Michael Campanaro (toe) given his injury history, but nothing has been decided or lost in his case. Now, if Campanaro or another player is still on PUP in mid-to-late August, the concern is understandable.”

Quick Hits

  • It’s time for a shameless self-promotion … the first episode of my “Man of the Crowd” podcast debuted yesterday. We get asked all the time by fans to show a more personal, human said to Ravens coaches and players, and that is what this podcast is designed to do. I show a very intimate side to Head Coach John Harbaugh and his family that I think you’re going to love to see. You can listen to it here on the website, or you can subscribe on iTunes, Sound Cloud, Google Play, or where ever you listen to your podcasts.

Please Note

The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

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