Eisenberg: I'm Tired of Talking About Injuries

Left: RB J.K. Dobbins; Right: WR Rashod Bateman

When the Ravens open their season against the Raiders Monday night in Las Vegas, they won't have two offensive playmakers they hoped would make a major difference in 2021.

Rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman underwent groin surgery in August. Running back J.K. Dobbins suffered a season-ending knee injury during the preseason. I'm guessing you heard.

The Ravens also might not have cornerback Jimmy Smith, who suffered an ankle injury in August, or Nick Boyle, one of the NFL's best blocking tight ends, who is still making his way back from a knee injury suffered last season.

They definitely won't have backup running back Justice Hill, who is reportedly out for the season after tearing his Achilles last week.

I'm guessing you knew.

Meanwhile, team officials will hold their breath and hope for no recurrence of the injuries that sidelined receivers Sammy Watkins and Marquise Brown and guards Kevin Zeitler and Ben Cleveland for all or part of training camp and the preseason.

I'm sure you're aware.

Chatter about injuries has been impossible to dodge during the buildup to the start of the Ravens' season.

There has been a lot. But enough already. I'm tired of it.

The chatter has been so persistent and loud at times that you'd think the Ravens' season was about to veer off a cliff and effectively end before it begins. But that's not the case, not at all.

The Ravens are still one of the NFL's top teams, even with their various subtractions factored in. Almost every prognosticator has them earning a playoff berth for the fourth straight year. Many have them winning the AFC North for the third time in four years.

Yes, their summer of subtractions has been relentless and depressing. (Can I get an "Amen, good riddance"?) But the chatter about injuries has obscured the fact that there's still a whole lot to like about the Ravens in 2021.

Their defense, largely untouched by the injury bug, is talented and deep, more athletic than last year's defense and chomping to get after people.

Among many storylines on that unit, D-lineman Calais Campbell looks far more dominant than a year ago, inside linebacker Patrick Queen looks poised to make a leap and safety DeShon Elliott might be the team's most improved player. Some analysts predict second-year D-lineman Justin Madubuike is about to pop in a huge way.

The defense is in a great place heading into the season. Stopping NFL offenses is a chore in 2021, but it'll be fun to watch Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale tackle the challenge with so many skilled pieces.

The Ravens' offense is thinner at certain positions, but still, far from bereft. The revamped line should be sounder. The running game is almost certain to be a headache for opposing defenses. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is one the game's most electric playmakers and he'll have plenty of viable receiving options Monday night.

Would the offense be more potent with Dobbins and Bateman? Of course. I'm not suggesting the chatter about injuries was much ado about nothing. Losing Dobbins is a huge deal. Expectations for Bateman's rookie season have to be adjusted.

But the situation calls for perspective. Every NFL team deals with injuries. Some have more in certain years, but unfortunately, unless a franchise quarterback goes down, injuries are just part of the journey and no excuse for what happens.

A team doesn't get to put an asterisk by its record saying, "A lot of guys got hurt." Good organizations just handle it.

The Ravens faced important questions heading into the season before they experienced a run of injuries. Having identified their O-line as an area that needed fixing, they addressed it with veterans rather than draft picks. Did they do the right thing? We'll see. We'll also see if additions such as Justin Houston and Odafe Oweh are enough to offset key pass-rush personnel lost in free agency.

The injuries add a bit of uncertainty, but if the Ravens fall short of what is expected of them, I guarantee you, it will NOT be due to the injuries that fouled up their training camp and preseason.

And in the end, the likeliest outcome is they have another winning season in spite of it all.

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