The Baltimore Ravens have signed two defensive backs, Blake Countess and Robert Jackson, to their practice squad, adding depth to a banged-up secondary struggling with multiple injuries, as well as one COVID-19 case.
The signings come amid an injury-riddled season in Baltimore, with a whopping 17 players currently on injured reserve. The secondary has been hit particularly hard, enduring season-ending injuries to Marcus Peters, DeShon Elliott and Ar’Darius Washington as well as recent knocks to Jimmy Smith, Chris Westry, Anthony Averett and Tavon Young.
ALL the latest Ravens news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Ravens newsletter here!
A quick glance at the Ravens’ official injury report shows why the Ravens felt the need to add two defensive backs.
After missing the Ravens’ Week 11 and 12 games with a neck injury, Smith returned to practice on December 1, but Westry, Averett and Young were all absent, per Jonas Shaffer of The Baltimore Sun.
A thigh injury sidelined Westry for November 28’s game against the Cleveland Browns, his eighth absence of the season after suffering a torn meniscus in Week 1 against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Averett suffered a thigh injury of his own during practice on November 19, forcing him to miss a Week 11 game against the Chicago Bears. He returned against the Browns to play 100% of the Ravens’ defensive snaps, indicating that his absence from practice shouldn’t be a major concern.
Young hurt his foot against the Miami Dolphins in Week 10 and is also dealing with a knee injury, but he played both against the Bears and Browns despite questionable injury designations.
The additions of Countess and Jackson indicate that the Ravens are expecting at least one of their defensive backs to miss their Week 13 divisional matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Westry and Smith are most likely to be ruled out, though a setback to Averett or Young could sideline them as well. Depending on their ability to learn Baltimore’s defensive playbook, either Countess or Jackson could be a practice squad elevation against the Steelers.
Read on to find out more about the two newest Ravens!
Countess is an Owings Mills, Maryland native who attended Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney before attending the University of Michigan. He spent three seasons as a Wolverine, earning All-Big Ten honors during his sophomore year, before transferring to Auburn University in 2015.
The Philadelphia Eagles took Countess with 196th overall pick in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but was waived before the regular season. He appeared in 37 games over three seasons with the Los Angeles Rams before a stint with the New York Jets, followed by a return to Philadelphia for two games in 2020.
While Countess profiles as a depth safety in Baltimore, his special teams pedigree could also be appealing to the Ravens.
He has 815 career snaps across a variety of roles on special teams, including two seasons of more than 300 special teams snaps in Los Angeles, where he earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors in Week 3 of the 2018 season.
Along with the blocked punt, Countess also added 51 yards on two punt returns, so he could be an emergency returner if Devin Duvernay is unavailable. Duvernay has been struggling with knee and chest injuries, and he missed practice on December 1 as well, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.
Jackson went undrafted out of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2018, eventually landing with the Browns, making 16 appearances and one start across the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
While he spent most of his time on special teams, injuries pressed him into a starting job in Week 17 of the 2020 season, when he played all 67 of the Browns’ defensive snaps. He reprised the role during a first-round playoff game against the Steelers, making eight tackles and playing a whopping 76 snaps.
Countess and Jackson will join Mazzi Wilkins, Kevin Toliver and Jordan Richards as the Ravens’ secondary depth on their practice squad.