OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Running back Kenneth Dixon is expected to miss the start of the regular season, but the Ravens are relieved not to have lost the talented rookie for a longer period of time.
The fourth-round pick sustained a medial collateral ligament tear in his left knee when former Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata tackled him short of the goal line late in the second quarter of Saturday’s preseason game. The good news is that the injury did not require surgery and is expected to only cost Dixon about a month of action.
“It is going to be a loss for a little while,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “But I was grateful for the fact that it is not going to be more than a few weeks.”
Leading the Ravens with 107 rushing yards on 22 carries in the preseason, Dixon has turned more than a few heads despite beginning training camp behind Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, and Terrance West on the depth chart.
Though weighing only 212 pounds, Dixon has shown surprising physicality that’s impressed the coaching staff in addition to his quickness. Of course, the 22-year-old was a four-year starter at Louisiana Tech, making him more experienced that the typical rookie running back entering the NFL.
“A very mature player for his age — just a guy that always has a smile on his face,” Harbaugh said. “He always comes to work. He’s very eager to learn, and then he’s very elusive and very strong. I think he pushed the pile one time, along with some of his teammates, five or 10 yards. He’s a hard-running guy.I think he’s a guy that can create yards on his own. He also pass-protects, and he catches the ball. He’s got a chance to be really good.”
Dixon has shown plenty of promise, but this is the third injury for which he’s missed time since being drafted in April. A lingering hamstring issue kept him out for the start of spring workouts and a minor knee injury suffered on the first day of training camp sidelined him for about a week.
Faith in tight ends after losing Watson
Despite losing veteran and projected starter Benjamin Watson to a season-ending Achilles injury on Saturday night, Harbaugh is confident in his remaining tight ends.
Third-year tight end Crockett Gillmore is healthy again after missing the start of the summer with a hamstring injury and undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason. The Ravens are also expecting veteran Dennis Pitta (broken finger) and 2015 second-round pick Maxx Williams (undisclosed) to return to the practice field soon after lengthy absences in the month of August.
“Dennis has missed a lot of time, so we have to get him back out there,” Harbaugh said. “I do think he can practice and play with the time [before the season opener], but we have to get him out there. He was not out there today. Maxx Williams is going to be back out here practicing shortly. His issue, we had to rest it for a few weeks. He will be back out here practicing shortly after the New Orleans game.”
Harbaugh also said that second-year tight ends Darren Waller and Nick Boyle remain in the organization’s plans despite their pending suspensions to begin the regular season. Waller will miss the first four games while Boyle will serve a 10-game ban.
Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman only returned to practice on a limited basis last week, but Harbaugh hasn’t ruled out the possibility of the 2015 first-round pick receiving some live-game reps in the preseason finale, a game in which few starters play.
“If he can play, he will play,” Harbaugh said. “I do want to see him out there playing before he gets in a regular-season game. It would be something that we would want to see him do if we can. That will be up to the doctors.”
Perriman suffered a partially-torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in June after missing his entire rookie season with an injury to his right knee.