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News & Notes: Ronnie Stanley's Potential Absence Poses Another Challenge

OT Ronnie Stanley
OT Ronnie Stanley

All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) missed practice for the second straight day after playing his first regular-season game following ankle surgery.

Thursday was not a scheduled day for Head Coach John Harbaugh to address the media and there was no official update on Stanley's status for Sunday night's game against the Chiefs.

However, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that the Ravens are preparing to be without Stanley against the Chiefs, and possibly longer.

Losing Stanley would be another major adjustment for an offensive line that has undergone significant change. He is the only starter on the line returning to the same position he played last season.

One possibility if Stanley doesn't play would be right tackle Alejandro Villanueva moving to left tackle, the position he played his entire career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said Villanueva would handle the switch well if asked.

"If that does happen, I feel great about it," Roman said. "He's played many years there (left tackle) if that's the way we go. We'll see how things play out. I think Al's a guy that's going to keep getting better in our system as we go as well."

Stanley is one of the NFL's premier offensive linemen, but he is less than a year removed from a major ankle injury and was not in midseason form Monday night, playing his first game in 10 months. If Villanueva moves to left tackle until Stanley returns, Patrick Mekari could become the starter at right guard with Tyre Phillips (knee) still on the injured list. The Ravens also re-signed veteran Andre Smith to the practice squad this week.

Injuries have been a major theme for Baltimore during the past month, but Roman said the offensive line is up for the challenge if Stanley can't go.

"When you take one of the best tackles in the league out of the lineup, it will affect it," Roman said. "We feel great with everybody we have. The great thing about it is, we've got great depth.

"We need to do a better job on the edge; we know that. It's just really a technique thing. I think we were late off the ball a few times, [and] that really affected us. The crowd noise had a little bit of an effect on a few of them, but we just have to do a better job, [and] we will."

Ravens Adapt Offense to New Set of Backs

Roman's innovative running game schemes have been highly-regarded for years, and this year he faces the challenge of adapting to the Ravens' rash of injuries at running back. With J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill all lost for the year, the Ravens have thrust Ty'Son Williams into a prominent role and have signed veterans Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman and Le'Veon Bell.

Roman says it's not as simple as plugging any running back into his system and expecting success.

He tailors play-calling and formations to accentuate each running back's strengths and fit his offensive line, which, as mentioned above, is also in flux. Last year was an example when the Ravens switched from Mark Ingram II to Dobbins as their lead back, and gave Dobbins more opportunities to run outside to take advantage of his speed and stretch defenses horizontally.

"If you look at us last year, we completely revamped our running game midway through the year, based on just the feel of what we needed to do and our players," Roman said. "It's always changing based on the players. This thing is all about the players, putting them in positions to be successful."

As Roman learns more about the Ravens' new backs, he'll search for additional ways to utilize their strengths. Freeman, Bell and Murray were all signed after training camp, so the emphasis is still being placed on teaching them the offense. But Roman's track record as a coordinator bodes well for Baltimore's chances to have a potent running game, in spite of the injuries.

"When you get guys in that late, you have to really tell them what they need to know and coach them along the way," Roman said. "These guys are really pros. They're doing a really good job."

Wink Martindale Praises Odafe Oweh's Strong Debut

First-round pick Odafe Oweh had a sack, four quarterback pressures, two quarterback hits and two tackles in his NFL debut.

The rookie outside linebacker showed his speed on his first NFL sack, pursuing Derek Carr and chasing him down from behind.

Oweh took criticism for not getting a sack during his final season at Penn State, and Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale couldn't resist poking fun at those who judged Oweh's potential just by looking at his sack numbers.

"What's he on schedule for now, a 17-sack season?" Martindale said.

Oweh is far more than just a situational sack artist. He defends the run well, with an ability to blow plays up in the backfield with his quickness off the snap. He has the upper body strength to set the edge while defending the run, and that should improve as he gains more experience.

Oweh played 58 percent of the defensive snaps Monday (46 snaps), and that playing time is likely to climb if he continues to improve each week.

"First primetime game, I thought he lived up to his billing and surpassed a lot of people's thoughts of him coming out," Martindale said. "I think he's going to be a really good player for us."

Chiefs Offense, Chris Westry Injury Is Test for Cornerback Depth

Chris Westry did not practice Thursday, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported that the rangy cornerback has a knee injury that could sideline him for an extended period.

Westry played 33 snaps in Week 1 and did a solid job supporting starters Marlon Humphrey and Anthony Averett in the outside cornerback rotation with Marcus Peters (knee) out for the season and Jimmy Smith (ankle) also inactive. Westry played more than slot corner Tavon Young (24 snaps).

At 6-foot-4, Westry is Baltimore's tallest corner, and the Chiefs present all kinds of potential matchup problems led by tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

Rookie safety Brandon Stephens could see an increased role after playing 25 snaps in Week 1. During his college career, Stephens showed his versatility by switching from running back to cornerback, and he has off to a good start making the transition to safety in the NFL.

"He's so valuable because he's a chess piece," Martindale said of Stephens. "He can play anywhere, and that's what he's been doing for us. So, that's how I see him best right now."

Martindale said Young could also see more snaps as the Ravens look to build him back up following last year's knee injury.

"You don't want to just rush him out there and play 90 plays or 55 plays or 60 plays," Martindale said. "So we have a gauge on him."

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