Baltimore Ravens 'hopeful' injured star players will return by season opener

Ravens running backs Gus Edwards, left, and J.K. Dobbins, right, suffered season-ending ACL injuries two weeks apart in 2021. Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh couldn’t hide his excitement when he saw Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey on the field last month.

Humphrey tore his right pectoral muscle last season and missed the last five games for Baltimore, which finished 8-9 for its first losing record since 2015. Then, in the middle of May, he became the first of five key players for the Ravens to come back to practice.

“It’s a big deal,” Harbaugh said. “I can sit up here and try to play it cool on that, but it wouldn’t be real.”

After last year’s last-place finish, the Ravens are tied with the Cincinnati Bengals as the betting favorite to win the AFC North because of the return of running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and cornerback Marcus Peters.

At the end of minicamp, Harbaugh said it’s too early to predict whether they will be ready for the start of training camp at the end of July. The Ravens can play it safe by putting them on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list at the beginning of camp.

The bigger question is this: Are the Ravens hopeful all of these players will be ready for the Sept. 11 season opener at the New York Jets?

“Hopeful,” Harbaugh said. “Hopeful, yes.”

A look at where Baltimore’s injured players stand:

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RBs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards

Injuries: Torn ACLs

When injured: Dobbins on Aug. 28 (preseason finale) and Edwards on Sept. 9 (practice)

What Harbaugh is saying: "The knee injuries are a little tougher to say what the schedule really is. But they're both doing great. We'll see how they look when they come back and all that.”

Contingency plan: Mike Davis and rookie Tyler Badie. If Dobbins or Edwards isn’t ready for the opener, Baltimore won’t be caught scrambling like last season, when the team signed Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman days before the season opener. Davis, 29, has totaled 1,145 yards (rushing and receiving) the past two seasons, which ranks 29th among running backs. Badie, last year’s SEC leading rusher who was drafted in the sixth round, has shown a burst as well as a knack for making plays in the red zone during the spring.

More on Davis and Badie: “[Davis is] quick, has really good vision, and he's always been a good receiving running back, but when you see it in person, it kind of opens your eyes. Tyler Badie, too, is a receiving running back. These guys kind of jumped out that way in these camps.” -- Harbaugh

OT Ronnie Stanley

Injury: Left ankle

When injured: Nov. 1, 2020 (vs. Steelers). Stanley missed the final 10 games in 2020 and returned to play the 2021 opener before going on injured reserve again.

What Harbaugh is saying: "I just talked to him again today. He's champing at the bit to get back. If he plays like Ronnie Stanley, and even better, then the significance is almost immeasurable. And that's what we're hoping for.”

Contingency plan: Ja'Wuan James and Morgan Moses. James and Moses have played right tackle for most of their careers. Over the last five seasons, Moses has played 145 snaps at left tackle and James has lined up for 11 snaps there. James is looking to play for the first time since 2019, after sitting out 2020 because of the pandemic and then suffering a torn Achilles in 2021. Moses, who played for the Jets last season, ranked ranked 16th in pass-block win rate among 68 qualifying tackles. Baltimore is looking to upgrade over Alejandro Villanueva, last year’s fill-in at left tackle who allowed an NFL-worst 17 sacks.

More on James and Moses: "I would say, those two veteran tackles are major additions from what we had last year. ... Of course, Alejandro [Villanueva] did a great job, but these two guys look really good." -- Harbaugh

CB Marcus Peters

Injury: Torn ACL

When injured: Sept. 9 (practice)

What Harbaugh is saying: “Marcus is in great shape. He's coming along really well. We've seen him; he's been back in the building, rehabbing, so [I'm] excited to see him in training camp.”

Contingency plan: Kyle Fuller. Baltimore needed an experienced cover man after overhauling the cornerback position. The Ravens didn’t bring back Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett, Tavon Young and Chris Westry. Baltimore drafted two cornerbacks in the fourth round (Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams), but lacked experienced depth before signing Fuller last month. A two-time Pro Bowl player, Fuller is coming off the first season of his seven-year career in which he didn’t record an interception.

More on Fuller: "With our corner problems that we had last year, you could never have too many good corners and he was available. And I thought that he was the best available guy that was left. He's going to be a great veteran presence to help us going forward, and I think that the guy has a lot more play left in his body.” -- Chris Hewitt, secondary coach and pass defense coordinator