Mailbag: What's the Plan for Replacing Marcus Williams?

(From left to right) S Geno Stone & S Kyle Hamilton

Mink: The Ravens are going to use a multi-pronged approach to replacing Marcus Williams for as long as he's out with his dislocated wrist. I expect that Geno Stone will be the starter and get most of the snaps, just as he did in the second half against the Bengals after Williams was ruled out. The Ravens have a lot of faith in Stone, who has been an ascending player the past couple years. They view him as a starter-level player and now he has his chance to show it, similar to the opportunity Chuck Clark got in 2019 after Tony Jefferson suffered a season-ending ACL tear.

Rookie Kyle Hamilton will also be a key piece of the mix, just as he has so far this season. As a big, rangy guy, he has a little different style than Stone. Hamilton's snap counts dropped from around 50% the first two weeks to the mid-20s the past three, and I expect that he'll see an increase again. Much of this depends on Hamilton's continued growth. As the rookie gets more and more comfortable, and if he plays well, I expect that he'll take over a larger share of the snaps.

I don't think Brandon Stephens will convert back to safety. The Ravens like him at cornerback and he's a key piece of that group as the No. 3 or 4 corner, mixing and matching with rookie Pepe Williams. Also don't forget that Williams can play safety as well, as he did in college. So Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald still has a lot of flexibility.

Keep in mind that none of the solutions are going to match what Williams offered. He led the team with three interceptions and there's good reason why the Ravens inked him to a big contract this offseason. His playmaking ability affects the game and opposing quarterbacks' willingness to let it rip. Baltimore's secondary has been headed in the right direction, and turnovers have been a big part of the formula. The Ravens drafted Hamilton to be a playmaker and Stone has a nose for the football. If opponents test them, they'll have to be up to the task.

Downing: This is difficult to predict because so much of it depends on how Ronnie Stanley feels. Sunday was his first time playing football in more than a year, and his snap count moving forward will be predicated on how he responds to that game action. If Stanley practices fully all three days this week, that's an encouraging sign about him being ready to get a heavier workload on Sunday. But if Stanley's ankle is sorer than expected and his practice time is limited this week, he could stay in a rotation for a longer period. Stanley told reporters after Sunday's game that he did have some soreness in the ankle, but that he thinks "it's only going to get better from here."

Stanley played 22 snaps compared to 43 for Patrick Mekari. The Ravens have done this with other players returning from injuries. Marcus Peters and J.K. Dobbins were both eased into game action, rather than playing 100% of the snaps in their first time back on the field. While it's a bit unusual for an offensive lineman to be part of a rotation, it makes sense given the approach to injuries the Ravens are taking.

My best guess is that Stanley will remain in a rotation for at least another week, but that he will see an uptick in snaps on Sunday against the Giants. The Ravens like Mekari's ability to fill in at left tackle, so it's not a dire situation where they have to thrust Stanley back into a full workload. Stanley and the Ravens want the All-Pro left tackle on the field throughout the year, so they're going to take it slow as he returns to full strength.

Mink: Boyle hasn't played any offensive snaps the past two weeks. Just special teams. The Ravens feel like Josh Oliver offers more at this time and Oliver's play has improved in recent weeks, particularly in run blocking, so he's earning it. Jones' snaps are kind of game plan specific. He had his most against the Patriots in his first game back from the knee injury because New England runs the ball a fair amount. He didn't have so many against the Bills because they are pass heavy. It was middle of the road versus the Bengals. I expect that he'll have more on his plate this week against Saquon Barkley and the Giants.

Likely's lack of early-season production (seven catches, 58 yards) has surprised me. He dropped a couple opportunities early and he also still must improve as a blocker so he can be used in more packages. If opponents know a pass is coming when he's on the field, that's not good. The emergence of Devin Duvernay has probably cut into Likely's opportunities as well. By season's end, I expect the rookie will have made some clutch plays. He nearly broke through a couple tackles to pick up a key first down on a fourth-quarter drive against the Bengals.

Downing: I won't rule out the Ravens making a move. General Manager Eric DeCosta has shown a willingness to trade in season – he did it with Peters and Yannick Ngakoue – and he'll make a move if he feels like he can get good value at a key position.

But the Ravens are somewhat limited when it comes to making a blockbuster trade. They only have $3 million in cap space right now, according to Spotrac, which doesn't leave room for Roquan Smith unless the Bears took on some of his salary. D.J. Moore has a base salary of just $1 million this year, but a cap hit of $20 million next year. Carolina would have to be convinced to take on a substantial salary cap hit to trade him.

Yes, the Ravens could restructure contracts to free up cap space, but there are limitations on that front. The Ravens already used a good chunk of cap space by signing veteran pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, and that was probably the big in-season acquisition for this team. DeCosta could still make a trade before the deadline on Nov. 1, but I don't see a major move on the horizon.

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