Michael Pierce is an important piece of the Ravens defense, and whether he can play against the Houston Texans on Sunday remains to be seen.
Head Coach John Harbaugh said Pierce was "day-to-day" with an ankle injury suffered during Sunday's victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The standout defensive tackle was limited to just three snaps against the Bengals, but Harbaugh said MRI results confirmed that Pierce's absence should not be lengthy.
"I would say he's day-to-day right now," Harbaugh said. "Nothing serious. It won't be a long-term injury which is good news based on the MRI today. There's a chance he'll play on Sunday. We'll just have to see how he does."
With Pierce sidelined Sunday, defensive linemen Chris Wormley (47 snaps) and Zach Sieler (24 snaps) saw their playing time increase. But Pro Bowl defensive tackle Brandon Williams (59 snaps) was the workhorse up front, playing a season-high 78.7 percent of the defensive snaps. During Baltimore's five-game winning streak, Williams has played some of the best football of his career.
"Brandon was the guy," Harbaugh said. "Brandon was a force. Brandon kind of took it upon himself to get that run stopped, especially in the second half. He played a lot of plays, played super hard, very physical in there. We needed him to, and he did a great job with it.
"He's had a lot of great stretches. This is just another one of them. To me, he's a consistently really good player. He's one of the top defensive tackles in football. I know how important he is to our team and to our defense. He's a really, really valuable guy, and he proved it again this game."
Opening Drives Have Been Fruitful for Ravens
Teams spend all week game-planning to stop Baltimore's potent attack, only to watch the Ravens strike quickly.
In eight of their nine games this season, the Ravens have scored on their opening drive. Six times, they have scored touchdowns, while twice they settled for field goals. The only time Baltimore didn't score on its opening drive was Week 4 during a loss to the Cleveland Browns.
The opening drive success speaks to the game-planning of the coaching staff, the execution of the players and the play-calling of Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman. Sunday was another example as the Ravens jumped to a quick 7-0 lead with a five-play, 75-yard drive. Lamar Jackson set the tone on the game's first play, tossing a deep pass to Marquise Brown for a 49-yard completion. On the next play, Jackson found tight end Mark Andrews for a 19-yard completion to set up first-and-goal from the seven. Three plays later, Jackson tossed a 2-yard touchdown pass to Andrews.
Starting fast has been a key for Baltimore during its current five-game winning streak.
"We talk about starting sharp," Harbaugh said. "We want to be on point. We want to be focused. It's both sides of the ball. Obviously, any time you can get the lead, that's an advantage. We want to keep the lead and extend the lead if we can. I really think our guys have done a good job of that."
Rookie Cornerback Iman Marshall on Verge of Being Activated
Fourth-round draft pick Iman Marshall has been on injured reserve since September and has not played since the preseason, but Harbaugh said Marshall would be activated to the 53-man roster this week.
It remains to be seen if Marshall will be active for Sunday's game, but the rookie cornerback is a candidate to help the Ravens on special teams. Marshall has been practicing and the Ravens are nearing the end of the three-week window when he must either be activated or placed on IR for the remainder of the season. The Ravens would have to release a player from the 53-man roster to make room for Marshall.
"We plan on bringing him up," Harbaugh said. "Whether he's active or not, just kind of depends on how the roster shakes out. He's practiced well. He looks healthy, and hopefully he can contribute to us. That's an area (special teams) that could use some bolstering personnel-wise, so that's one option for us."
Jackson's Focus Remains on Winning, Not Wowing
The signature play of Jackson's sparkling performance Sunday was his draw-dropping, 360-degree spin move during his 47-yard touchdown run.
It was a drop-the-mic moment for Jackson, but Harbaugh never worries about the 22-year-old quarterback being caught up in the hype surrounding him. When he goes over the game tape with Quarterbacks Coach James Urban, Jackson won't be thinking about the spin move. He will be probing for ways to improve.
"He'll be the first one to say – between him and James Urban – 'These are the things that we need to improve upon from week to week,' and that's really the message," Harbaugh said. "You're going to get better, if you work at it.
"It's hard to get better at anything. (Former Michigan coach) Bo Schembechler used to say, 'You're either getting better, or you're getting worse. You never stay the same.' And he is all in for getting better, and that's all he thinks about. "You see him go out there, and you see it pay off as a coach. Yes, you're fired up about that."