Ravens Make Final Call on Nick Boyle Before Vikings Matchup

Ravens Nick Boyle

Getty Baltimore Ravens tight end Nick Boyle is carted off the field after suffering a knee injury in November 2020.

Despite his return to practice more than two weeks ago, the Baltimore Ravens declined to activate tight end Nick Boyle for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Boyle has participated in recent practices, but his status this week was still “up in the air” according to head coach John Harbaugh on Monday. The Ravens moved veteran tight end Eric Tomlinson to the practice squad on Monday, raising expectations for Boyle’s 2021 debut, but it will have to wait at least one more week.

Boyle hasn’t played since Week 10 of the 2020 season, when the veteran suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year. He’s slowly worked his way back since then, but the Ravens are likely going the cautious route with his return to game day action, especially after losing All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley for a second consecutive season last month.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said on Thursday that the Ravens are “looking forward to him getting healthy again,” calling the veteran tight end “a guy you want to have on your side,” per Jonas Shaffer of The Baltimore Sun.

But The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec noted that Boyle’s long recovery, which included at least two surgeries, has the Ravens taking a gradual approach to his eventual return.

With two games in five days this week, the Ravens could be planning to give Boyle a few more days of practice before activating him for their Week 10 matchup with the Miami Dolphins.

Ravens Hope Boyle Can Kickstart Running Game

The Ravens may have the third-most rushing yards per game in the NFL, but their ground attack has been nowhere near as efficient as years past.

Preseason injuries crippled Baltimore’s running backs, and their replacements have been less than inspiring. with the exception of Latavius Murray, who is doubtful for Sunday, according to the Ravens’ injury report.

Injuries along the offensive line have made matters worse, especially without the 270-pound Boyle on the field.

While Patrick Ricard and Mark Andrews have both blocked remarkably well in Boyle’s absence, his return will bring one of the NFL’s best blocking tight ends back to the Ravens’ offense. Not only will that free up Andrews to continue his dominance as a receiver this season, while shoring up Baltimore’s run blocking and pass protection.

He’s also a much better receiver than Eric Tomlinson, who has served as the Ravens’ second tight end this season.

Ravens Activate Tomlinson

But with Boyle out, the Ravens elevated Tomlinson from the practice squad to play on Sunday, per the NFL’s official transaction report. 

Tomlinson arrived in Baltimore last year after Boyle’s injury and played in six regular season and two playoff games.

But the veteran tight end was used exclusively as an blocker and presented virtually no threat as a receiver, earning only one target, which he was unable to catch.

He has been a solid blocker for the Ravens this season, earning a 81.7 blocking grade from Pro Football Focus, good for first among all tight ends with at least 100 snaps.

But his reversion to the practice squad earlier this week indicates that he’s unlikely to see the field once Boyle is fully health. However, Tomlinson’s blocking prowess in the Ravens’ run scheme makes him a valuable veteran to hold onto in Baltimore.

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