With Ronnie Stanley Done For Year, Ravens Will Continue To Lean On Offensive Line Depth

The Ravens have placed All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley on injured reserve, ending his 2021 season after just one game. Stanley said via a statement released by the team that he will have season-ending surgery on the ankle injury that has never fully healed from last year.

To bolster their tackle depth, the Ravens have claimed Brandon Knight off waivers after he was released by the Dallas Cowboys.

Stanley, 27, missed the final 10 games last season after suffering the injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 1, two days after signing a five-year, $98.75 million contract to anchor the left side of the Ravens’ line for the foreseeable future.

He underwent surgery last season then returned to practice in August. Stanley said at the time that he thought he could be 100 percent healthy for the regular season.

He played one series in the preseason finale and then started the season opener at Las Vegas, but he struggled badly in that game, the Ravens’ only loss to date, and it quickly became apparent that he wasn’t anywhere near the form that made him a First-Team All-Pro in 2019.

Stanley has not played since, and after further consultations with medical staff, he has decided to have another operation.

“This is not what I wanted or expected when coming into the season,” Stanley said in the statement. “Throughout the last year, I did everything I could to be 100% healthy so I could be out there playing for our team and city. … At this point in time, my ankle isn’t where it should be. This is the best decision not only for my health, but also for the team long term. I look forward to supporting my team from the sideline this season and coming back fully healthy in 2022.”

With Stanley sidelined, veteran Alejandro Villanueva moved back to the left tackle position he played for six seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and versatile Patrick Mekari has had a breakout season moving into the right tackle spot.

Villanueva had been signed this offseason to play right tackle, but he, too, struggled in the Week 1 loss at Las Vegas, and he has appeared to be much more comfortable on the left side.

Mekari has started at three different spots along the Ravens’ offensive line in his three-year career, but had never started at right tackle until this season. He is ranked 27th among tackles by Pro Football Focus.

Harbaugh this week praised Mekari’s versatility and said, “He’s locked in at right tackle, and I couldn’t ask for a better player there right now.”

Still, Villanueva has been dealing with a knee injury and the Ravens are perilously thin at tackle. Veteran Andre Smith, who was cut during training camp, was later re-signed to the practice squad and has been elevated to the game day roster for five of the first six games. The Ravens also have David Sharpe and Jaryd Jones-Smith on the practice squad.

Ju’Wuan James, whom the Ravens signed this summer after he was let go by the Denver Broncos, remains on the non-football-injury list. James had suffered a torn Achilles in May while working out away from the Broncos’ team facility.

Now the Ravens have added Knight to the 53-man roster after being awarded a waiver claim. Knight, 24, was originally signed by the Cowboys in 2019 as an undrafted rookie out of Indiana. Knight had appeared in just one game this year before being waived, but he made 10 starts over the previous two years, including nine last year at left tackle.

(Update: Knight did not report to the Ravens, according to the team.)

NOTEBOOK

LE’VEON BELL ADDED TO 53-MAN ROSTER: The Ravens have added running back Le’Veon Bell to the 53-man roster, promoting him from the practice squad after he made two appearances with the team as a practice squad elevation. The former All-Pro scored his first touchdown as a Raven in the 34-6 rout of the Los Angeles Chargers Oct. 17.

In two games, Bell has 12 carries for 29 yards. Running back Latavius Murray, who leads the remade Ravens’ running back group with 59 carries for 212 yards, left the Chargers game with an ankle injury. If he can’t play in this week’s AFC North showdown against the Cincinnati Bengals, Bell would be joined in the backfield by Devonta Freeman and Ty’Son Williams. The Ravens lost their top three running backs — J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, to season-ending injuries before the season began.

RAVENS ADD TWO TO PRACTICE SQUAD: The Ravens have added guard James Carpenter and inside linebacker Joe Thomas to the practice squad. They had room for one addition, so to make room for both, outside linebacker Chris Smith was released from the practice squad.

Carpenter, 32, was a first-round draft pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2011 out of Alabama. He has started 121 games during 10 seasons, including 13 with the Atlanta Falcons last year. He has primarily played left guard. Thomas, 30, is in his seventh season and started two games for the Houston Texans before being let go last week.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Bo Smolka

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