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Late for Work 7/1: What Are the Expectations for Key Players Returning From Injury?

070122-LFW
(From left to right) RB J.K. Dobbins & RB Gus Edwards

What Are the Expectations for Key Players Returning From Injury?

With the Ravens coming off a season that was derailed by a slew of season-ending injuries to key members of the roster, much of the focus this offseason has been on the timetable for return of those players.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec looked at the Ravens' rehabbing players and when they might be back on the field. Here's his outlook for four of them:

RBs J.K. Dobbins (ACL tear) and Gus Edwards (ACL tear)

"Unlike Dobbins, who was visible during some of the offseason workouts and was at least doing some football activities off to the side, there were no sightings of Edwards beyond what he's put on social media. … [Head Coach John] Harbaugh mentioned early in the offseason that Dobbins and Edwards probably won't be guys they push to have on the field for the start of training camp. The more likely scenario is starting on the PUP list and returning at some point during camp."

CB Marcus Peters (ACL tear)

"All indications are that as long as he continues to make progress, he should be back at some point over the summer and that would give him a chance to play in Week 1. Peters has never had a major injury, so this is uncharted territory for him and the Ravens won't rush him back. He's far too important of a player for the Ravens and the only goal will be to have him on the field in September."

LT Ronnie Stanley (ankle)

"If his ankle recovery is progressing more quickly than it was last offseason, and that's what Stanley has reportedly told team officials, that's a huge positive. Stanley has said that he felt like he rushed back last year in order to play in Week 1 and he won't do that again, putting in question an early training camp appearance. Otherwise, there seems to be positive momentum here and that hasn't always been the case."

Analyzing the State of the 2022 Ravens

NFL.com's Adam Rank took stock of the Ravens heading into the season. Here are some of his takeaways:

Projected team MVP: QB Lamar Jackson

"Look, the Ravens missed the playoffs in 2021, the first time that's happened in the Lamar Jackson era. Jackson missed five games, including the final four with an ankle injury. It's worth noting the Ravens were 1-4 in games without him. They were 7-5 with him. The dude is pretty important."

Will the Ravens be able to replace WR Marquise Brown?

"Rashod Bateman, a 2021 first-round pick, is the guy the Ravens are counting on to step up. He was decent last year after missing the first five weeks with a groin injury, making 46 catches for 515 yards and a touchdown. But he did have at least 80 receiving yards in three of the last seven games he played with Lamar last year. I'm expecting a huge breakout for him. Remember, Sammy Watkins is gone this year, too."

2022 breakout star: DT Justin Madubuike

"The third-year player started 11 games last season and had some nice moments, including some solid work against the Packers in Week 15. But he drew some rave reviews in recent OTAs. It could just be a coincidence, but maybe working out with Aaron Donald has helped him. He is one to watch this season."

People shouldn't overlook: OLB Odafe Oweh

"Oweh was pretty great in 2021. Oweh had five turnovers caused by pressure in 2021, which was tied for the most in the NFL, per Next Gen Stats. Oweh posted five sacks, 15 quarterback hits and three forced fumbles as a rookie. Like I said before, this is just the kind of stuff the Ravens pull off all the time."

Can Rookie Tight Ends Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar Create Matchup Problems?

For the Ravens' passing game to be successful this season, Russell Street Report's Chris Schisler said they need to find another matchup problem for opposing defenses beyond tight end Mark Andrews and Bateman.

Schisler sees rookie tight ends Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar as two of the leading candidates.

"Likely is a speedy, 6'4" pass catcher with the label of TE," Schisler wrote. "He's the kind of tight end who is basically like a big slot receiver. The other tight end the Ravens drafted this year, Charlie Kolar, has a 6'6" frame that makes him a massive target with a nice catch radius. Kolar was drafted after a 62-reception season. The excitement for Likely's prowess as a receiver may be helping people forget what Kolar brings to the table.

"Both tight ends have a chance to be successful in this tight-end friendly offense. It's not hard to see what the Ravens were looking for though, traits that trigger matchup problems."

Three returning members of the Ravens' young receiving corps also will have an opportunity to step up.

"It may be the speed of Devin Duvernay in a spot where he has to replace the routes Marquise Brown used to run. It may be the shifty route running of James Proche that becomes Lamar's third preferred target. Tylan Wallace was dangerous after the catch at Oklahoma State — maybe he could be the answer," Schisler wrote.

Brandon Stephens' Versatility Makes Him a Valued Member of Star-Studded Secondary

The Ravens' secondary, which was ranked No. 1 in the league by Pro Football Focus, is filled with high-profile players such as Peters, Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Williams and first-round pick Kyle Hamilton. One less-heralded defensive back who could make a significant impact is 2021 third-round pick Brandon Stephens.

Ebony Bird's Kristen Wong put Stephens at the top of her list of the most important non-starters on the Ravens' roster.

"Stephens' do-it-all versatility allows him to plug in anywhere on the field, but given Baltimore's myriad of safety options, his services may more likely be needed as a backup outside corner," Wong wrote. " … He's on the right track and could end up making the same impact former Ravens corner Anthony Averett did last season."

Stephens, who started 11 games as a rookie due to injuries in the secondary, emerged as one of the Ravens' top defenders over the final month of the season. He played mostly at deep safety but also saw time at box safety, slot cornerback and outside cornerback.

Harbaugh talked about Stephens' ability to play multiple positions during OTAs several weeks ago.

"He's very versatile," Harbaugh said. "We've got a lot of safeties. We added another corner now, so there's a lot of depth in there. But he can play outside; he looked good today, doing it. He can go inside in the slot; he's done well with that. He can play safety. We haven't played him as much at safety in these last two practices. But I would say he's a corner/safety instead of a safety/corner at this point in time."

Quick Hits

  • NFL.com noted that Jackson needs one game with 100-plus rushing yards to become the all-time leader for the most by a quarterback. He currently shares the record of 10 games with Michael Vick.

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