Ravens Add More RB Depth Ahead of Week 1

Ravens Trenton Cannon

Getty New Ravens running back Trenton Cannon participates in a drill during training camp with the Carolina Panthers in July.

The Baltimore Ravens signed running back Trenton Cannon to their 53-man roster on Wednesday to serve as the team’s third-string RB following season-ending injuries to J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill, per the NFL’s official transaction report.

The move comes less than a day after the Ravens signed two-time All-Pro Le’Veon Bell to their practice squad, a move that turned heads around the league given Bell’s pedigree and history of controversy.

Many presumed that Bell would be the Ravens’ third-string running back going into Week 1 of the regular season, but Cannon’s signing to the active roster suggests that Baltimore is more comfortable with Cannon at RB3. 

Head coach John Harbaugh said it’s possible that Bell plays during the Ravens’ season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday, per Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic.

The Ravens got a good look at Cannon during joint training camp with the Carolina Panthers, where the fourth-year back was signed until September 2.

While Bell is a more flashy signing, Cannon better fills the void on special teams left by Hill, who played 46% of the Ravens’ special teams snaps last year, while Cannon saw the field for 40% of the Panthers’. His snap count on Monday against the Raiders will depend on how quickly he can be integrated into the Ravens’ offense.


Practice Debuts for Two New Ravens

Le’Veon Bell participated in his first practice as a Raven on Wednesday, wearing number 17, as safety Geno Stone currently has number 26, which Bell wore with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets.

While Bell remains on the Ravens’ practice squad for now, he could be a valuable pass-catcher out of the backfield if he’s elevated to the active roster for games. A photo of Bell flashing his hands during practice made rounds on social media, increasing the already-substantial excitement around Bell’s signing in Baltimore.

The Ravens also signed defensive tackle Reginald Kahlil McKenzie, a 2018 sixth-round pick out of the University of Tennessee. The Chiefs converted him into a guard in training camp, but cut him in 2019.

He stayed on the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad as a guard for the 2019 season and briefly joined the XFL in 2020.

After tryouts with several teams, McKenzie landed with the Cincinnati Bengals, appearing in seven games exclusively as a defensive tackle during the 2020 season. The Bengals waived him as part of their 53-man roster cuts, allowing the Ravens to sign him.

The Ravens listed McKenzie as a defensive tackle when they announced the signing on Twitter and he practiced with the DTs on Wednesday, so it appears he will stay on the defensive side of the ball in Baltimore.

However, the Ravens’ online roster lists him at guard, but a printable version has him playing defensive tackle.

This is likely just an oversight, but the Ravens have proven to be a forward-thinking franchise that embraces unconventional ideas. They allowed fullback Patrick Ricard to play both offense and defense for a few seasons, and having one practice squad player provide depth to two positions would be an efficient use of roster space.


Jimmy Smith Returns to Practice

Veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith practiced this week for the first time since August 6, indicating that he could be ready for Week 1 against the Raiders.

Absent from practice on Wednesday were tight end Nick Boyle, defensive end Derek Wolfe and outside linebacker Daelin Hayes, according to Jonas Shaffer of The Baltimore Sun.

Boyle has been recovering from last season’s knee injury, but was removed from the Physically Unable to Perform list last week. His status for Week 1 is up in the air, but with three other tight ends on the roster, the Ravens are unlikely to risk a setback to Boyle.

Wolfe’s back injury, suffered during joint practices with the Panthers, has kept him out for more than a week. Harbaugh is hopeful that Wolfe will rejoin the team soon, but declined to offer any clear projection for his return, per Shaffer.

It was unclear why Hayes missed practice. An injury would be a huge disappointment to the Ravens, as Hayes put together an impressive preseason despite his Day 3 selection in the 2020 NFL Draft.

With multiple season-ending injuries before the start of the regular season, the Ravens will want to be as healthy as possible as they aim for a Super Bowl this season.

 


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