No matter how the Patriots have struggled so far in 2020, they are still a traditionally tough matchup for the Ravens, and there is always that Bill Belichick factor of strategy and brainy invention to overcome.
The Ravens have added a veteran cornerback to fortify a position hit hard by injuries. Tramon Williams, who has spent most of his career with the Green Bay Packers, has been signed to the 53-man roster.
Williams replaces cornerback Khalil Dorsey (shoulder), who has been placed on injured reserve.
The 37-year-old Williams has 34 career interceptions, but has not played this season after his second stint with the Packers ended in 2019. An undrafted free agent in 2006 from Louisiana Tech, Williams had his best years with the Packers, where he played from 2006-14 and won a Super Bowl in 2010.
In his second stint with Green Bay that began in 2018, Williams started 23 games, including seven games last season. Though he has primarily been a cornerback, Williams also played some safety for the Packers last season. Williams has also played for the Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals.
Williams will add depth to the cornerback rotation that includes Pro Bowlers Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey, veteran Jimmy Smith and second-year pro Terrell Bonds. Humphrey (COVID-19) is expected to return this week after missing Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Dorsey, who dislocated his shoulder during Sunday’s game in Indianapolis, joins a lengthy list of injured cornerbacks from Baltimore. Tavon Young and Iman Marshall are out for the season with knee injuries and Anthony Averett (shoulder) is on injured reserve, though he could return later this year. Dorsey will be out at least the next three games.
The Ravens have also signed two players to the practice squad – defensive back Nate Brooks and offensive tackle R.J. Prince. Prince was on the Ravens’ practice squad last season and has also spent time with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brooks was an undrafted free agent from North Texas in 2019 who has been with the Cardinals, New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins.
HC John Harbaugh said the finger injury that kept starting inside linebacker L.J. Fort sidelined against the Indianapolis Colts was not long-term. But it remains to be seen how quickly defensive end Calais Campbell can return from his calf injury.
“It’s not a season-ender, major injury or anything like that,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a calf strain. We’ll see where that goes.”
Fort’s absence pressed inside linebackers Malik Harrison and Chris Board into heavier action against the Colts, and they responded well.
Harrison, a rookie third-round pick from Ohio State, led had seven tackles while playing a career-high 33 snaps. Board also played a career-high 35 snaps and continued to be steady. Harrison and rookie inside linebacker Patrick Queen (four tackles, 58 snaps) missed the week of practice on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and their stamina was tested. But Harbaugh was pleased with the entire inside linebacker group.
“I thought those guys played really well,” Harbaugh said. “I thought they played excellent football especially for not having practiced. They did a really good job. I thought Mike Macdonald, our linebackers coach, did a great job with those guys, getting them ready to play. Very few mistakes. They played super-hard. They just left it all out there. They really played just excellent football.”
One good sign of the Ravens’ youth movement: rookie defensive tackle Justin Madubuike (6-3, 292) is strong and quick, and his athleticism showed while making a key tackle during Sunday’s second quarter. Philip Rivers tossed a quick pass to running back Jonathan Taylor, who had blockers in front of him. Taylor appeared to be set up for a long run, but Madubuike turned on the speed and tackled Taylor from behind. Instead of a big gain, the Colts were forced to punt after their next play, and Harbaugh gave Madubuike his props.
“That’s a great play,” Harbaugh said. “That thing was about to get out. He really showed some great acceleration and went and got it on a pursuit and effort play. That was a tremendous football play. He played really well. He was very physical. He played like we like to play as far as our techniques. He’s learning that as he goes, he’s getting more consistent with that. Brings a little bit of a pass rush inside. I’m glad we got him, that’s for sure.”
The rookie could have a larger role going forward if Campbell is unable to play.
Baltimore’s new-look offensive line with Orlando Brown Jr. at left tackle, Patrick Mekari at right guard and D.J. Fluker at right tackle started its first game together against the Colts. Lamar Jackson was sacked just twice and the Ravens put together three long drives in the second half that helped turn the game in their favor. Harbaugh was pleased with the offensive line’s performance.
“I thought they played pretty darn good,” Harbaugh said. “That front they were playing is really good. That’s one of the very top fronts in the league.
“I think we struggled with them more in the first half. In the second half, we started to get a sense of the timing of it a little bit better. It’s hard to practice that kind of speed and how well they do that stuff. I thought our line did a good job of adjusting through the game. Joe D. (Offensive Line Coach Joe D’Alessandris) did a great job of coaching those guys up. It showed up in the second half.”