OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Ravens wide receiver Sammy Watkins missed the team’s practice on Oct. 13 with a hamstring injury sustained in the win against the Indianapolis Colts two days earlier, and head coach John Harbaugh was noncommittal about Watkins near-term availability.
“We’ll just see how long it takes him to get back,” Harbaugh said.
If the Ravens can afford an injury to any position group, it would appear to be at wide receiver. Miles Boykin (leg) returned from injured reserve for his first action of the season on Oct. 11, and first-round draft pick Rashod Bateman (groin) is expected to make his season debut this coming Sunday, Oct. 17, when the Ravens (4-1) host the Los Angeles Chargers (4-1).
In addition, second-year receivers Devin Duvernay (10-104) and James Proche (8-118) have become bigger factors on offense recently.
Bateman has been on injured reserve the entire season after undergoing surgery in August, but he returned to practice on Sept. 29. According to IR rules, he must return to the 53-man roster within 21 days or be placed on IR for the rest of the season. The Ravens could wait and activate Bateman next week, but the expectation is he will play against the Chargers.
Watkins, 28, signed a one-year deal in March and has started all five games for the Ravens. He has made 18 catches for 292 yards. Watkins played roughly 82 percent of the offensive snaps in the first four games before leaving the Colts game in the second quarter.
Injuries have been an issue throughout Watkins’ career. He has played every game of the season just once in his previous seven seasons, and that was his rookie year in 2014 as a member of the Buffalo Bills. Watkins missed 14 games during the past three years, when he played for the Kansas City Chiefs.
With injuries to the Ravens’ top three running backs before the season began, the running game has struggled to find a footing, while the Ravens’ passing attack is enjoying its most prolific success of the Lamar Jackson era.
Against the Colts, Jackson completed 37 of 43 passes for a franchise-record 442 yards and four touchdowns — on the Ravens’ final four possessions — to rally the Ravens to a 31-25 overtime win. According to ESPN, Jackson is the first player in NFL history to complete more than 80 percent of his passes while throwing for more than 400 yards. He was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for that performance.
The Ravens enter this week’s game ranked No. 1 in total offense with 440.6 yards a game and sixth in passing offense (291.8). Last year, the Ravens ranked 32nd in passing offense, and they haven’t ranked higher than 22nd in passing in Jackson’s three seasons.
Marquise Brown, who caught two touchdowns against the Colts, including the game-winner in overtime, is on pace for the one of the most productive seasons ever by a Ravens wide receiver. Brown has 28 catches for 451 yards and five touchdowns in five games, which puts him on pace for 1,443 receiving yards in a 16-game season. That would be a Ravens franchise record, plus there’s a 17th game this year.
Brown is seeking to become just the second receiver drafted by the Ravens to record a 1,000-yard season with the team. (The other was Torrey Smith in 2013.)
FERGUSON RETURNS FROM RESERVE/COVID-19 LIST: Ravens outside linebacker Jaylon Ferguson has been activated from the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list and returned to practice Oct. 13. Ferguson reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus in late September and missed the past three games. Ferguson played sparingly in the Ravens first two games this year, totaling two tackles.
CLEVELAND INJURY IS ‘SHORT-TERM IR’: Head coach John Harbaugh said the knee injury sustained by rookie guard Ben Cleveland is “a short-term IR.” By going on injured reserve, Cleveland must be sidelined a minimum of three weeks before he can return to practice.
Cleveland, who had been splitting time at left guard with Ben Powers, was carted off the field after being injured in the second quarter against the Colts, but he tweeted the next day that he got “positive news from the doctors today so we’ll be back soon and better than ever!”
Tyre Phillips, another offensive guard who is on short-term IR, returned to practice last week and potentially could return to the active roster for the Chargers game on Oct. 17.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox