Tony Jefferson’s season is over with a torn ACL and more damage to his left knee, as an MRI since Sunday’s game confirmed. Jefferson was officially placed on injured reserve Monday.
But as tough a blow as it is to lose a “heart and soul” member of the team, as Head Coach John Harbaugh put it Monday, Harbaugh is also confident in the Ravens’ replacements.
Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott are two players Baltimore has been high on for quite some time, and now both will get an extended opportunity to show what they can do.
“Those two young guys will do a heck of a job,” Harbaugh said. “I’m very confident in those guys. We’ll have to overcome it.”
Harbaugh said Clark and Elliott will share the role. Earl Thomas III is the team’s free safety, and Clark and Elliott’s different styles could make them a strong 1-2 punch.
“We’ll have to figure out where we want to play them, how we do the groups, how we do the packages, what they play, where they play,” Harbaugh said. “We have the utmost confidence in those two guys.”
Clark is in his third NFL season. The sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech has played in all but one game of his NFL career, mostly on special teams but also in spot duty on defense. He started two games when Jefferson was out with an ankle injury last season, and picked off Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City.
Ravens players have said Clark is the smartest player on the field, and Harbaugh said that was also reflected in the scouting report Baltimore got back in 2017.
“That was in the reports and you saw it on tape,” Harbaugh said. “He played really, really, solid football. He knew what he was doing out there, was a really good tackler, was always in the right spots. … That’s the kind of guys we like.”
Elliott is really in his first season after a broken forearm ended his rookie campaign in the preseason. He was also a sixth-round pick out of a big-time college football program (Texas), though Elliott stood out for different reasons.
Elliott was a big-time playmaker who made six interceptions and forced three fumbles during his junior season. He returned two picks for touchdowns. Elliott is also an impactful hitter who had 8.5 tackles for loss in his final college year before declaring early for the draft.
Elliott’s knack for making plays showed up in practice both as a rookie and this season, as he had some of the most eye-popping picks and biggest hits of the summer.
His playing style earned him the nickname of “The Joker,” which is quite timely considering the release of the movie “Joker” on Friday.
“Chuck has been playing a little more than DeShon, but DeShon is ready to play. There’s no question about that,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been chomping at the bit to play.”
The Ravens will also need to figure out who wears the helmet with the communication system in it moving forward. Baltimore gave Jefferson the job two weeks ago after linebacker Patrick Onwuasor began the year with it. Harbaugh said it is undetermined as of now.
Meanwhile, Jefferson will go to work trying to return from a brutal knee injury.
“Tony Jefferson, obviously, is the heart and soul of us, a leader, and a great player,” Harbaugh said. “He’s just a high-energy player – a guy that flies around, makes plays, a big communicator for us in the back end. So those are going to be challenging things.
“At the same time, those are things that happen in this game. You just have to deal with them. The guy who has to deal with them the most is Tony. Tony is going to have the toughest road to travel, emotionally and spiritually. And he will. He’ll be up for the challenge, no question about it. He’ll come back stronger than ever.”