The wait for Derek Wolfe's return continues.
After returning to the practice field prior to last weekend's bye, Wolfe did not practice this week and has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. Wolfe (back) has not played all season and has yet to be activated from injured reserve to the 53-man roster.
Following Sunday's game, Wolfe will have a short week before the Ravens visit the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football. While Wolfe's return to the practice field was a positive step last week, the timetable for his return to game action remains uncertain.
"He's going to be out this week," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "The back is not feeling good; it's not there yet. Backs are tricky. I think when you see him practice for a few days in a row than you'll have a clue he's got a chance."
Veteran defensive end Calais Campbell is likely to continue carrying a heavy load up front with Wolfe out of action. Campbell has played more defensive snaps (321) than anyone in Baltimore's front seven except Patrick Queen (338).
Mason Cole Will Play Key Role Against Ravens
The Vikings got some bad news this week when starting center Garrett Bradbury (COVID-19) was ruled out for Sunday's game. Bradbury has started every game since being a first-round draft choice (18th overall) in 2018.
However, backup center Mason Cole has made 32 career starts for the Arizona Cardinals. Harbaugh is very familiar with Cole, who played college football at Michigan for Harbaugh's brother, Jim. While Bradbury is an excellent player, Harbaugh said Cole will be ready to fill in.
"The backup's been a longtime starter," Harbaugh said. "Lot of respect for him as a football player. They've very similar type players. Very good athletes who can move around with the stretch zone stuff. Knows all the pass-protection calls. We don't expect to see much drop off there."
Containing Cook Will Be Key for Ravens
Only three NFL running backs are averaging more yards per game than the Vikings' Dalvin Cook (88.8). Minnesota has dangerous weapons at wide receiver in Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, but much of the Ravens' defensive game plan centers on stopping Cook. He does many things for the Vikings as both a runner and a receiver (12 receptions) out of the backfield.
Klint Kubiak, son of former Ravens Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak, is the Vikings' offensive play-caller. The Ravens know that with a Kubiak system, stopping the run comes first and foremost to nullifying a dangerous play-action attack.
"He's a bell cow," Harbaugh said of Cook. "They want to get the ball to him as often as they can. He runs all their run plays, but he runs the wide zone stretch play the most. That's the play that they hang their hat on, a play you have to stop when you play the Vikings. All the ways to get him the ball – in the flats, screens, flairs, off of play action. He's a guy they're going to get the ball to as much as they can, and for good reason. He's a great player."
The Ravens have had trouble getting elusive ballcarriers on the ground this season, and Cook is both physical and shifty. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has been sacked just 10 times, and getting the ball to Cook is usually a good option. Outside linebacker Tyus Bowser said the Ravens will have to be disciplined with their pass rush.
"Especially with Kirk Cousins and how well he does with the play-action fakes," Bowser said. "You can't just sell for him having the ball, because you've got [No.] 33 [ Cook] back there that's ready to go downhill if you make the wrong decision. So, you really have to stay disciplined, and that's what we've been working on this entire week – is just staying disciplined on the back side."
Justin Houston Hunts For Sack No. 100
With 99 ½ career sacks, Justin Houston is as close to the milestone as he can get. It may happen Sunday against the Vikings, and he's likely to end the season with well over 100 career sacks if Houston keeps pressuring quarterbacks the way he did in Week 7.
Houston stayed in Joe Burrow's face on a regular basis, one of the few defensive bright spots for Baltimore during a 41-17 loss. Houston didn't have a sack, but he finished with four quarterback hits and two tackles.
Bowser expects it won't be long until Houston joins the 100-sack club has huge admiration for Houston, who has become a mentor in the outside linebacker room during his first season in Baltimore.
"Sometimes you're going to get there and sometimes you're not, but as long as you are going out there, playing fast, doing your job and getting to the quarterback, those plays will eventually come," Bowser said. "So, for him to go out there and do what he did, it was awesome. And just seeing the work that he puts in out here on the field, eventually, those sacks are going to come. That's what I've always been told by 'Sizz' [Terrell Suggs] and everybody else – that those sacks come in bunches. You might get there close, you might not get there, but eventually, [if] you keep working hard, keep doing what you have to do, you'll get there."