“We mourn for a day and fight today,” said head coach John Harbaugh on Friday. “We’ve got a really good team, a lot of great players…and we can move forward,” he continued.
That’s been the message coming out of Baltimore over the past few days, even as the team scrambles to adapt to significant injuries on both sides of the football.
“The energy was down, and deservingly so,” said veteran tackle Ronnie Stanley, “we lost two of our brothers.”
But the team plans to use the injuries as motivation, according to Stanley, who added, “We’re going to go on the field and be even better for the guys we lost.”
When asked about fans and experts writing off the Ravens this season, the 2019 All-Pro responded, “I feel like that plays to our advantage…Guys can think whatever they want. The Ravens are going to be the Ravens. We’re going to step up.”
This isn’t just posturing from team leaders, either. It’s an acknowledgement of the intent behind the Ravens’ roster-building process, stockpiling not only talent, but depth as well.
It’s not just that the coaching staff and front office are confident that someone is going to step up to replace the void left by Marcus Peters, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins; they already know who those breakout players are going to be.
Both players will look to shine against the Las Vegas Raiders in tonight’s regular season opener.
Averett Primed for Breakout Year
“Those guys will take one step up from where they were, take on a little more responsibility and go,” said Harbaugh.
Defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale echoed that message, saying that he believes Averett has “Pro Bowl talent. This is his opportunity…everyone else just goes up a rung.”
Averett has been a consistent contributor for the Ravens in his four years with the team, with his role and snap count increasing with each season.
Veteran safety Chuck Clark said that Averett has “quietly” proven himself against top receivers in recent years, adding “now it’s his time to do it all the time, consistently.”
“We’re all confident in him. The sky is the limit for him,” said Clark, who himself emerged as an important contributor after Tony Jefferson‘s season-ending injury in 2019.
Averett himself expressed confidence in his own abilities on a Ravens podcast last week, referencing his four starts last season after injuries decimated Baltimore’s secondary.
“Last year, I played real well, so that gave me confidence,” said the Alabama product.
Williams Ready for RB1 Role
Ty’Son Williams’ ascension to the starting running back spot in Baltimore may have been swift, but the Ravens think he’s more than ready for the spotlight.
Even before Edwards and Hill went down for the year, Williams’ standout preseason earned him more regular season snaps.
“You do the math and he’s there,” said Harbaugh on August 30, “He’ll be out there playing…he’s practiced every day and he’s excited about his opportunity.”
Now, as the Ravens’ longest-rostered back, Williams is expected to lead the backfield tonight against the Raiders.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman noted on Saturday that the team’s enthusiasm for Williams extends further back than just this year, referencing a 2020 stadium practice in which Williams “jumped off the screen to all of us.”
“We feel great about Ty’Son. He’s done nothing but impress,” added Roman.
While Williams will dominate carries in Las Vegas, the Ravens also added four running backs in the last week: Latavius Murray and Trenton Cannon to the active roster, and Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman to the practice squad.
Roman spoke about his new running backs, saying “I’m really impressed with how these guys are picking things up. It’s not their first rodeo. We’re going to go in there and roll.”
Harbaugh called Murray’s playing style a “great fit,” telling reporters “you’ve seen our offense and I think you can picture him pretty easily in that offense.”
While Murray will be the team’s RB2 tonight, Cannon will replace the special teams output of Justice Hill, who tore his Achilles in practice last week.
Special teams coordinator Chris Horton compared the two players, saying Cannon would be a “good addition to us because he’s similar to Justice in that role and the things that we’re going to ask of him.”
Freeman or Bell could be activated before kickoff if team coaches feel that either back has learned the Ravens’ offense well enough to play.