Dan Orlovsky: Rashod Bateman Injury 'Is Huge, Huge Concern'
When Head Coach John Harbaugh revealed yesterday that first-round pick Rashod Bateman will undergo surgery on his groin and be back sometime in September, he said: "So, I think that's pretty good news."
To Harbaugh's point, the news could've been a lot worse. Groin injuries can be tricky, so having the surgery now to repair the injury with the expectation that the rookie wide receiver will be back on the field during the first month of the season is preferable to the unknown of trying to rehab the injury and potentially having it be an issue throughout the season.
With that said, there's no denying that losing Bateman for the preseason and possibly multiple regular-season games is a setback for an offense whose main goal is to improve in the passing game. Bateman has been impressive in training camp and was expected to make an immediate impact.
So how concerned should the Ravens be about Bateman's absence? Very, ESPN's Dan Orlovsky said.
"I had said since they drafted him, Rashod Bateman, outside of the quarterbacks, is the most important rookie in the NFL," Orlovsky said on "Get Up." "If we're going to pinpoint one specific area in [the Ravens'] pass game that needs to get better, it's perimeter.
"As a quarterback, when I'm throwing the ball to the perimeter, it's more often than not going to be out of my hands before the receiver's looking for it just because it has to go so far. And that all comes down to feel, and reps, and timing and rhythm. How can those guys get better if they're not able to do it? This was a weakness heading into this season that they hopefully were going to attack, and it's still a weakness. This is a huge, huge concern for a Super Bowl contender."
Bateman's absence is compounded by the fact that wide receivers Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Miles Boykin have both been sidelined with hamstring injuries.
"The thing that was going to potentially hold this football team back is already in the preseason holding this football team back," Orlovsky said. "I'm asking myself, how does a pass game that is in desperate need of getting better get better when the integral pieces that are going to do that can't work together? They can't get any better in the preseason right now."
Orlovsky's colleague, Louis Riddick, said: "If they're not available, then I'm terrified that it's going to keep the offense from accomplishing what they want to accomplish. The fact is, though, they still have some time in order to get these guys ready."
Varying Timetables on When Bateman Will Return
The timetable for Bateman's return is a matter of conjecture.
The Ravens and team doctors know best, but that didn't stop the media from offering their timetables. Harbaugh said the rookie will be back in September, but he didn't specify whether that means back to game action or practice.
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec believes it's more likely that Bateman starts the season on injured reserve.
"If the Ravens place the former Minnesota standout on IR after the roster has already been cut down to 53, Bateman would be eligible to return in time to make his NFL regular-season debut in Week 4 against the Denver Broncos," Zrebiec wrote. "That game is scheduled for Oct. 3, meaning Bateman would have seven weeks of recovery time after surgery to make a full return to the field. That's a more realistic time frame than expecting the rookie to be ready in a little over four weeks when the regular season begins."
Sammy Watkins Has Become Iron Man of Receiving Corps
While other Ravens wide receivers are making headlines for being injured, veteran Sammy Watkins is in the headlines for being healthy.
Watkins' extensive injury history is well-documented, but the former No. 4-overall pick has become the iron man of the receiving corps in camp. Watkins is doing more than just showing up to practice; he's balling out.
"Given his track record, it's surprising that Watkins has become Baltimore's most dependable and consistent wide receiver in camp," ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote. "He's only missed one of the 12 practices this summer (it was a day off given to veteran players), and he's catching bunches of passes all over the field.
"Watkins has brought a great deal of energy to a young wide receiver group. Watkins, 28, is the only Ravens wideout over the age of 26. He often leads the wide receiver drills, and he knows how to get open."
Watkins, who has been building chemistry with Lamar Jackson, had another strong day in camp yesterday.
"The highlight of the early one-on-ones between receivers and defensive backs was the matchup between Sammy Watkins and Marcus Peters," Zrebiec wrote. "Watkins had receptions in all three reps. Peters was in good position on the first one, but Watkins caught the back-shoulder fade. Watkins turned him around with an inside move on the second one and then elevated over Peters in the back of the end zone on the third."
As noted in yesterday's practice report, Devin Duvernay also had a strong performance yesterday, and fellow second-year wide receiver James Proche II has been impressive throughout camp. While Bateman, Brown and Boykin recover, opportunities for others to step up are there.
Players to Watch Against Saints
There are a number of intriguing players to keep an eye on in tomorrow night's preseason opener at M&T Bank Stadium.
OLB Jaylon Ferguson
"Ferguson hasn't especially stood out during training camp so far, which could grow to be a problem if he also fails to make a statement during the preseason," Oestreicher wrote. "Baltimore signed edge rusher Justin Houston a few weeks ago, and his presence could complicate if Ferguson gets a roster spot or not due to the depth that the team now has at outside linebacker that also includes Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh and others."
DL Justin Madubuike
"He trained with Aaron Donald in Pittsburgh this offseason and has been one of the most explosive players on the Ravens roster throughout training camp," Schultz wrote. "His explosiveness off the ball has been a constant problem for offensive lineman throughout one-on-one's and in team drills. Watching Madubuike's hype meet his play would be a sight for sore eyes, as the Ravens have one of the oldest defensive lines in the NFL."
TE Josh Oliver
"From the way camp has gone, the Ravens can kiss their 2022 seventh-round pick goodbye," Schultz wrote. "The Ravens sent the pick to Jacksonville for Oliver, under the condition that he's on their roster to begin the 2021 regular season. Oliver has done nothing but make that decision look wise so far. He's the closest thing they've had to Mark Andrews, maybe even considering Hayden Hurst.
"From the first day of camp, Oliver found himself working in certain 12 personnel packages. Oliver has been used particularly in spread formations. He's been utilized in short motions and made a living up the seams, displaying a monstrous catch radius along with an aggressive 'my ball' attitude."
WR James Proche II
"Wide receiver James Proche II has been the most impressive player at Ravens' training camp so far, making multiple plays almost every single day," Oestreicher wrote. "After not getting a lot of opportunities to make an impact last season, the second-year wide receiver will look to carry over his great start to camp to a game setting against the Saints."
WR Tylan Wallace
"With Rashod Bateman out, Wallace has a chance to earn himself significant playing time early in the season," Schultz wrote. " … Wallace looks every bit of an ancillary contributor who could take on a larger role if he can prove as physically tough as he was in college after the catch. This is a prime opportunity for Wallace to assert himself in the rotation. He's shown competitiveness as a blocker and seeks contact in all facets. Whether that will translate into NFL games is a key question."
CB Chris Westry
"One of the biggest standouts of 2021 training camp has been cornerback Chris Westry," Oestreicher wrote. "After signing a futures contract back in January with the Ravens, the 6-foot-4 cornerback has flashed during practices over the past couple of weeks.
"Westry is fighting for a roster spot along with players such as Davontae Harris, Iman Marshall, Khalil Dorsey and others. He's been the biggest standout among that group, and with a strong preseason, Westry could earn a place on the 53-man [roster]."