Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce has elected to undergo season-ending surgery for a torn bicep suffered in Week 3 against the New England Patriots, according to videos posted to his Instagram story on Thursday morning.
“He did tear his biceps,” said Harbaugh. “He’s making a decision now whether he wants to get it repaired, which would put him out for the season, or play with it and get the surgery after the season.”
The six-year veteran has elected for the first option, ending his 2022 season early but putting him on track to make a full recovery by the start of next season, the second year of the three-year deal he signed with the Ravens in March.
Jones, Washington to Step Up
Pierce’s injury is a significant loss for Baltimore’s defense. Not only does his 86.9 defensive grade from Pro Football Focus lead the team, it’s also the sixth-best mark among NFL interior defenders.
The Ravens will fill the 345-pound hole in the middle of their defensive line with a few different players, starting with rookie defensive tackle Travis Jones.
The third-round pick flashed his potential in the preseason but missed the Ravens’ first two games due to a hyperextended knee. Jones made his NFL debut in Week 3 and played well, even if it didn’t show up in the box score.
Harbaugh seemed satisfied with his rookie tackle’s performance, saying on Monday:
I thought he played well. Travis is going to be a very impactful player. It was his first outing out there, and he played hard. He’s going to learn a lot from it. He played well enough for the first time out…but of course we have high expectations for him and he’s only going to get better from here.
But Jones is still a rookie, and despite his potential to be a complete defensive tackle who can stuff the run and push the pocket, the Ravens won’t be able to count on him to fully replace Pierce right away.
Third-year defensive lineman Broderick Washington – who already has a heavy role in the Ravens’ pass rush rotation – will be part of the equation as well. In Weeks 1 and 2, Washington primarily played on passing downs, with just 14 of his 69 snaps coming against the run, per PFF. He surpassed that number in Week 3 alone with 16 run defense snaps to mixed results: 5 tackles, 3 run stops and a 46.7 grade.
The Ravens are allowing 5.0 yards per carry to opposing rushers this season, the sixth-highest of any NFL team through Week 3. That’s uncharacteristic for Baltimore, who typically finish among the league’s top five run defense every year. Pierce’s absence won’t make it any easier, so players like Jones and Washington will need to step up, quickly.
Ravens Could Make Addition
Since Pierce is out for the season, he will be moved to injured reserve sometime this week, which will open up another active roster spot in Baltimore.
The Ravens won’t rush to fill it as they let some of their other injury situations play out in the coming weeks, but they have options.
Practice squad defensive tackles Isaiah Mack and Rayshad Nichols both played well in the preseason, especially as disruptors against the pass.
Both players – most likely Mack, who played for the Ravens in 2021 as well – will likely get a few gameday activations from the practice squad in the next few games. If either player can translate their solid preseason play against stiffer regular-season competition, they could earn a spot in Baltimore’s regular defensive line rotation.