OWINGS MILLS, Md. — All-Pro Ronnie Stanley missed his second straight practice on Sept. 16, and CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora suggested that Stanley could be sidelined for an extended period because of a setback with his surgically repaired ankle.
That would be yet another crippling blow for a Ravens team that has already lost its top three running backs and Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters in a stunning preseason run of season-ending injuries.
In addition, first-round draft pick wide receiver Rashod Bateman, tight end Nick Boyle and wide receiver Miles Boykin are all on short-term injured reserve, and offensive lineman Tyre Phillips joined them after getting carted off the field in the season-opener at Las Vegas.
Stanley’s injury comes on the heels of a season-opening, 33-27 overtime loss at Las Vegas on Sept. 13, with two-time AFC champion Kansas City coming to M&T Bank Stadium on Sept. 19.
Head coach John Harbaugh did not meet with the media on Sept. 16, so there were no updates on any injuries. Harbaugh is scheduled to speak after the team’s Sept. 17 workout.
Stanley struggled in the loss to Las Vegas, his first extensive game action since he originally sustained the ankle injury on Nov. 1 last year. According to Pro Football Focus, he received the fourth-worst pass blocking grade of all tackles in Week 1.
Stanley missed the final 10 games last year, then returned to action late in training camp and played 10 snaps in the final preseason game against Washington. He said he had hoped to return to his All-Pro level early this season, but concerns about his flexibility and strength seemed valid, and any setback with his ankle could have accounted for his limited mobility.
If Stanley is unavailable, Alejandro Villanueva is expected to switch from right to left tackle, the position be played for six seasons in Pittsburgh. But Villanueva, who turns 33 next week and was signed to a two-year, $14 million deal by the Ravens this offseason in the wake of the trade of Orlando Brown to the Chiefs, struggled at least as much as Stanley against the Raiders. His pass-blocking grade from PFF was the lowest among all tackles in Week 1.
Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after basically making Villanueva’s night miserable in Las Vegas. Crosby recorded two sacks and five quarterback hits and was in the Ravens’ backfield all night.
Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman, though, came to Villanueva’s defense this week after his spotty Ravens debut.
“We come out, and we work to get better,” Harbaugh said. “[Villanueva] works his butt off to get better. He’s going to play very well for us.”
A day later, Roman wouldn’t speculate on Stanley’s injury but said that if Villanueva were pressed into duty at left tackle, “I feel great about it. He’s played many years there. … I think Al is a guy that’s going to just keep getting better in our system as we go.”
Not that they have much choice.
The Ravens’ top backup option at tackle was probably Phillips, who started at left guard against the Raiders and then was carted off the field with a knee injury and is on short-term injured reserve. Super-utility lineman Patrick Mekari is probably the only other lineman on the 53-man roster who can play tackle, though he’s better suited in the interior.
The Ravens added a pair of tackles to the practice squad in the past week in veteran Andre Smith and undrafted rookie Foster Sarell. Both were with the Ravens this summer, but neither won a spot on the original 53-man roster. Undrafted rookie tackle Adrian Ealy is also on the practice squad.
Now one of them, most likely Smith, will be a game-day elevation just to give the Ravens an option.
Although the Ravens haven’t elaborated on Stanley’s situation, any setback to him was always the risk in trading tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to the Chiefs this offseason. Brown made clear he wanted to play (and be paid as a) left tackle, and that wasn’t going to happen in Baltimore after Stanley signed a top-of-market deal last year.
So with Brown entering the final year of his rookie deal, general manager Eric DeCosta swung a deal with the Chiefs, with the return being a haul of draft picks that became, among others, first-round linebacker Odafe Oweh and third-round guard Ben Cleveland.
Now with Brown gone and Stanley ailing again, this was always the worst-case scenario for a team that, led by quarterback Lamar Jackson, had legitimate Super Bowl aspirations. But that was a month ago. Before J.K. Dobbins got hurt. And Gus Edwards. And Marcus Peters. And Rashod Bateman. And Stanley.
With Brown and the Chiefs rolling into town this weekend, this is already feeling like a season on the precipice.
MARQUISE BROWN, CHRIS WESTRY MISS PRACTICE AGAIN: In addition to Stanley, wide receiver Marquise Brown (ankle) and cornerback Chris Westry (knee) each missed their second straight practice, leaving their availability for the Chiefs game questionable.
ESPN reported that Westry, who played 33 defensive snaps against the Raiders, is dealing with a torn meniscus. The Ravens’ other absences from the Sept. 16 practice were defensive end Derek Wolfe (hip/back), who hasn’t practiced since late August, and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee, who received a veteran’s day off.
Devin Duvernay (groin) was listed as a limited participant, and he was seen leaving the field after the special teams portion of the workout. Duvernay has been the Ravens’ top kick and punt returner. If he couldn’t go, James Proche would probably take over those duties.
RAVENS PROMOTE RB FREEMAN, ADD SARELL TO PRACTICE SQUAD: The Ravens’ roster juggling continued Sept. 16 as running back Devonta Freeman was promoted to the 53-man roster, and offensive tackle Foster Sarell was re-signed to the practice squad.
Freeman, a seven-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowl pick with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015 and 2016, joined the Ravens’ practice squad last week. The Ravens released running back Trenton Cannon two days ago, leaving just two running backs — Ty’Son Williams and Latavius Murray — on the 53-man roster. Le’Veon Bell remains on the practice squad.
“We have four good guys in here,” head coach John Harbaugh said earlier this week, “and those guys are all going to be a big part of what we’re doing going forward.”
Sarell, an undrafted rookie from Stanford, was with the Ravens in training camp before being released in the final cutdown.
PRIME-TIME PLAYERS: The Ravens are 15-2 in home prime-time games under John Harbaugh and have won 13 of their past 14. The only loss in that span: The Sunday night game against the Chiefs last year, when the Chiefs raced to a 27-10 halftime lead and won 34-20.
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