(Updated: 3:05 p.m.)
OWINGS MILLS, Md. — With only two games remaining in the regular season and a playoff spot already secured, the Ravens received concerning news on Thursday that they’ll be without top wideout Anquan Boldin until the postseason due to a knee injury.
Boldin has a slight tear in his meniscus and will have surgery Thursday afternoon, a procedure that will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the regular season, according to head coach John Harbaugh. The 31-year-old receiver had missed the last two days of practice and was listed as having a knee injury on the team’s official injury report released on Wednesday afternoon.
“It flapped up on him, I think it was Tuesday night after the walk-through,” Harbaugh said. “He’s going to have to get that repaired. It’s a two-week deal. He’s seeing Dr. [James] Andrews this afternoon. He’ll be back in two weeks, so he’ll be back for the playoffs, whichever round we happen to play in. It’ll be a little tighter if we have to play in the first round.”
In his ninth NFL season, Boldin has 57 catches for 887 yards and three touchdowns. The former Florida State star has not missed a game since the 2009 season, his final year with the Arizona Cardinals. With Boldin sidelined for the next two games, the Ravens will lean heavily on rookie Torrey Smith and veteran Lee Evans to produce more in the passing game.
Smith has been one of the most productive rookie wide receivers in the league, catching 43 passes for 770 yards and a team-leading seven touchdown catches to break the franchise record for touchdowns by a rookie.
“For us, we have to step up,” Smith said. “It’s too important for us to play well right now to have any letdowns. The whole team is depending on us to play well, and we’ve got to go out there and do it.”
Evans has made little impact this season after missing seven games with a left ankle injury. The 30-year-old receiver has only four catches for 74 yards in seven games. Through the first 14 games of the regular season, it’s safe to say the Ravens’ decision to send a fourth-round pick to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for Evans during the preseason has not worked out.
The six-foot receiver has looked more comfortable over the last couple weeks in creating separation, but it hasn’t translated on the stat sheet as Evans and Flacco continue to work on their timing. With Boldin sidelined, Evans hopes he can build a rapport with the quarterback over the final two weeks of the regular season that will carry over into January.
“It’s an opportunity,” Evans said. “Whatever is called on me to do, I’ll be ready to do. I’ve been working to get back to this point, and I’m getting an opportunity. That’s what it is, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Needing wins in their final two games to secure the AFC North division title as well as a first-round bye, the Ravens now find even more incentive to secure an extra week of rest for Boldin to return to action in time for the playoffs.
While it’s possible that general manager Ozzie Newsome looks to the free-agent market for help at wide receiver, the Ravens will likely use more two-tight end sets with Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta splitting out as wide receivers if necessary. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron used two tight ends a great deal while Evans was sidelined earlier in the season.
Former Ravens wide receiver Derrick Mason will inevitably be discussed as a potential target to sign in Boldin’s absence, especially with him being in Baltimore on Thursday. However, a source close to Mason told WNST.net’s Glenn Clark that the veteran being in town is “purely coincidental” due to the holiday, and he had not been contacted by the team as of early Thursday afternoon.
After being waived by the Houston Texans on Dec. 12, Mason would be interested in a potential return to the Ravens if they reached out to the 37-year-old receiver, the source confirmed.
Behind Evans on the depth chart are rookies LaQuan Williams and Tandon Doss. Previously the No. 3 receiver in Evans’ absence, Williams has been inactive for the Ravens’ last three games. Doss, the team’s fourth-round selection in April, has been inactive for all but five games this season and has not registered a catch in his rookie season.
“You want to get your young guys out there on the field as much as you can,” Harbaugh said. “You never want to do it before they’re ready to have some success. I think those guys are very much ready to have success. Between LaQuan and Tandon — also the the tight ends probably play a role in that as well — it will be very interesting to see how they do, but we anticipate them doing really well.”