The Baltimore Ravens were the grim reapers of the league in 2015 when it came to dealing with injuries—and often when it came to their on-field product as well, for the 5-11 unit—but they had a steady stream of luck lately in getting a number of their injured players back.
While they have certainly dealt with their allotment of minor training camp and preseason ailments, however, the tide veered sharply in the opposite direction on the first snap of their third preseason game last night, when tight end Benjamin Watson, just signed over the course of the offseason, suffered a torn Achilles—ironically, the Achilles heel in terms of injuries for the Ravens of late—and he is likely to miss the entirety of the season.
The veteran tight end, who saw a bit of a rejuvenation playing in New Orleans last season, was anticipated if not to start as the top tight end, at least to feature heavily in the passing offense as a significant contributor after he signed a two-year contract worth $7 million.
But though some of their alternatives are dealing with issues of their own, the truth is that Baltimore does have the reserves at the position enough to weather such a storm. Two are currently dealing with injuries, and another two are dealing with suspensions at the start of the season, but time will tell how that all gets sorted out by the time the regular season opens.
The bulk of the duties at tight end last season were handle by Crockett Gillmore, while he was healthy, and he did a more than serviceable job in that department. Major growth is to be expected of second-year former second-round draft pick Maxx Williams, as well, though he has been out with an undisclosed injury as well. Still, the severity of that situation is unknown.
The returning Dennis Pitta looked almost his old self when he was actually on the field, but a hand injury has sidelined him over the course of August. Still, he appears to have had no obvious ill effects of trying to return from a hip injury, and he should contribute this season.
Between Williams, Gillmore, and Pitta, the Ravens have enough to not only get by, but to run a successful offense, and yet they have two more players waiting in the wings for them, though it will take time for them to contribute due to their suspensions.
The more significant is the 10-game suspension that second-year tight end Nick Boyle is going to serve. He impressed the coaching staff late in the year with his performance, and they are no doubt anxious to get him back. Darren Waller is also going to start the season serving a suspension. With Watson out, however, he may still have a role on the team.
As long as things don’t continue to escalate into negative territory at the position, the truth is that the Ravens should be fine without Watson. His signing kind of seemed like a bonus at the time—though that was before the suspensions were known.