The Baltimore Ravens, whom most Pittsburgh Steelers fans appear still to view as their primary rival due to the fact that they have struggled to win their individual matchups in spite of the media making much of recent scuffles with the Bengals, have certainly had their fair share of injuries over recent years, and they continue to wallow in that mire that Steelers fans know all too well.
Their quarterback Joe Flacco, is recovering from a torn ACL, while their top two project wide receivers are also looking to return from injury—not to mention their starting left tackle, a cornerback—I could go on, but suffice it to say that they have been through the ringer as bad as anybody in the past year.
The latest blow came to their rookie third-round draft pick, defensive end Bronson Kaufusi, whom Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said “wrenched his back, for lack of a better term”. I’m not sure about you, but I have had my share of back issues, and understand how that sort of thing can sideline somebody from even some mundane everyday tasks, let alone going 70-plus rounds with an offensive line.
While Harbaugh chose to frame his recovery period by optimistically saying that “he will definitely be back for training camp”, the subtext here is that Kaufusi will be out until training camp, meaning that he will not a not insignificant time to recover as the Ravens wrap up their final stretch of OTAs and then their minicamp before breaking ahead of training camp in July.
The BYU product was made the 70th overall draft pick in 2016 with Baltimore’s selection, the 6’6”, 285-pounder lineman possessing ideal physical measurements to play the conventional 3-4 defensive end role that the Ravens are looking to replace after choosing to part with veteran Chris Canty.
There are not many options there as the second defensive end, with veteran Lawrence Guy expected to enter the starting lineup. Third-year man Brent Urban, who has spent most of his first two seasons sidelined by injuries, has been logging a heavier number of snaps due to Kaufusi’s injury.
Like the Steelers, the Ravens are both attempting to determine just what sort of depth they have available to them along the defensive line, and having one of their newest players sidelined for any period of time does them no favors in preparing him for possible playing time during his rookie season.
Both AFC North rivals will be counting on players of relatively little experience to step up into important rotational roles which, if they fail to do so, could potentially place a disproportionate burden on their starting players that will have repercussions in their performances late in the season.