The Ravens are better equipped to handle Breshad Perriman’s absence than they were a year ago when he was their only hope in replacing Torrey Smith.
But that doesn’t make his latest knee injury any less disappointing for both him and the Ravens as they try to bounce back from a 5-11 season. We’re still waiting to see how Perriman’s skills translate to the NFL, of course, but that kind of upside is what Baltimore was counting on to help return to the playoff picture in the AFC after a one-year absence.
Perriman’s injury hardly ruins their season, but the Ravens have now lost a potential solution to a problem that plagued them a year ago. Even before the many injuries that sent the 2015 season spiraling out of control, John Harbaugh’s team lacked game-changing talent on either side of the ball, too often leaving the Ravens on the losing end of close games.
Offensive coordinator Marc Trestman and quarterback Joe Flacco will now lean more heavily on veteran newcomer Mike Wallace, a former 1,200-yard receiver coming off the worst season of his career. To be fair, the 29-year-old wasn’t a good fit in Minnesota with Teddy Bridgewater’s limited throwing arm, but Wallace’s career hasn’t exactly been trending in the right direction since leaving Pittsburgh a few years ago.
The combination of Perriman and Wallace made you salivate about the deep-ball potential with Flacco’s strong arm, but the Ravens will likely now take a longer look at fourth-round rookie Chris Moore, another vertical threat out of Cincinnati. Perhaps Moore is a diamond in the rough who can pair nicely with Wallace, but neither possesses the same apparent ceiling as the speedy Perriman.
When you’re coming off a 5-11 season, you need game-changing talent. The Ravens have enough solid-to-good players on this roster, but first-round picks are supposed to have the potential to become great ones, which is what general manager Ozzie Newsome envisioned when he took Perriman last year to compete in a division that has such game-changing receivers as Antonio Brown and A.J. Green.
That’s why the 22-year-old’s latest setback stings for a roster with aging players at a number of key positions. Perriman was himself still an unknown, but the Ravens hoped he would be a major answer at wide receiver, a position where there are other options but plenty of questions.
Will Steve Smith still look like the same player at age 37 and coming off an Achilles tendon injury?
Can Kamar Aiken prove last year’s production wasn’t merely the result of Ravens quarterbacks having no one else to throw to in the second half of the season?
Does Wallace still have the ability to hurt opposing defenses in the vertical passing game?
Will anyone from the group of Moore, Michael Campanaro, Jeremy Butler, Keenan Reynolds, and Chris Matthews emerge to be a bigger force than expected?
If the Ravens were coming off their typical season under Harbaugh in which they made the playoffs and were firmly in the AFC title hunt, Perriman’s injury would be a bummer but calmly received with the “next man up” mantra. But a lot of ground needs to be made up when you’re coming off the type of season Baltimore had in 2015.
The Ravens need high-impact talent to emerge and the ball to bounce their way in 2016 after a season in which seemingly everything went wrong.
Perhaps they will still find their answers elsewhere, but it hurts to again lose a talent envisioned as such a difference-maker.