Status of Sammy Watkins, Other Ravens Veterans ‘Up In the Air’ Vs. Vikings

Ravens Sammy Watkins

Getty Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Sammy Watkins smiles during training camp in July.

The Baltimore Ravens could be getting multiple veterans back from injury on both sides of the ball in the coming weeks, much-needed relief for a team devastated by injuries this season.

While defensive reinforcements in the form of defensive end Derek Wolfe and cornerback Chris Westry could still be a few weeks away, the offense could get up to three players back for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Latavius Murray both “have a chance” to play on Sunday, according to head coach John Harbaugh on Monday.

“Whether they make it or not is up in the air,” he added, noting that tight end Nick Boyle was also “in that group.”

The Ravens have the fourth-highest average yards per play and Pro Football Focus’s fourth-highest overall offensive grade in the NFL, but the trio of veterans still have plenty to bring to Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson-led offense

Sammy Watkins

Watkins practiced yesterday for the first time since hurting his hamstring against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 5, according to the Ravens’ official injury report. His limited participation suggests that the team is cautiously optimistic about his availability on Sunday.

Watkins looked fluid running routes in practice on Thursday, and his hamstring didn’t appear to bother him.

Rookie Rashod Bateman has capably filled in during Watkins’ absence, so the Ravens will be able to carefully manage the veteran receiver’s workload if he’s able to play against the Vikings.

Still, fans are excited at the prospect of having Watkins, Bateman, Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown and Mark Andrews all on the field together as Lamar Jackson’s targets. The Ravens’ passing offense has reached new heights this season, even without all four of those players available at the same time.

Latavius Murray

But the Ravens’ run game has not been as efficient as it has in years past. Part of that is surely due to several injuries along the offensive line, but Baltimore could be getting more out of its backfield as well.

Murray was among the preseason signings to replace the Ravens’ trio of injured running backs, and he emerged as the lead back before he was injured against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 6.

He missed Baltimore’s last two games, and his absence from yesterday’s practice puts his availability for Sunday against the VIkings in doubt.

Ty’Son Williams, Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman will split carries if Murray is out, with the Ravens hoping that each back can improve on their struggles this season after opting not to add a running back at the trade deadline.

But the Ravens could have another vital part of their ground game on Sunday, one that’s been missing since last season.

Nick Boyle

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said yesterday, “This time of year, we really need to get our run game going,” per Jonas Shaffer of The Baltimore Sun, and Nick Boyle could help do just that.

The veteran tight end has been practicing for more than two weeks since he was designated to return from injured reserve, where he’s been since a knee injury ended his 2019 season in Week 10. Per the NFL’s official transaction report, the Ravens moved veteran tight end Eric Tomlinson to the practice squad on Monday, opening up a spot on the 53-man roster for Boyle.

While teammates Mark Andrews and Patrick Ricard have blocked extremely well in Boyle’s absence, the 270-pounder is one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL. His presence will give the Ravens even more opportunities to combine Ricard and Boyle in heavy offensive sets, while freeing up Andrews to continue his phenomenal 2021 season as a pass-catcher.

Tomorrow’s practice and the accompanying official injury designations will provide more clarity for all three players’ status for Sunday, but it’s likely at least one returns to give the Ravens’ offense a boost.

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