OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A defensive line once possessing great depth is suddenly a concern as the Ravens approach Thursday’s preseason finale in Atlanta.
After starting defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (right knee) and veteran reserves Lawrence Guy (knee) and DeAngelo Tyson (shoulder) all left Saturday’s preseason loss to Washington with injuries, the Ravens had just six defensive linemen on the field for Monday’s practice. Head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged this could be problematic for Thursday’s preseason finale with the Ravens preferring to rest starters Brandon Williams and Chris Canty against the Falcons.
“It’s going to be tight,” Harbaugh said. “The idea that we go in there with 75 guys [on the roster] is really not 75, because it’s going to end up being 35 guys probably with the injuries [and veterans resting]. It’s going to be a strain on those guys. It’s a tough game, but it’s also an opportunity for those guys to show what they can do. They’ll be excited to play.”
Should none of their injured defensive linemen return in time for Thursday’s game, the Ravens would be forced to rely heavily on rookie Carl Davis, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Christo Bilukidi, and Micajah Reynolds.
Jernigan injured his right knee on a legal cut block from Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses on the fourth defensive play of the game on Saturday. The Ravens are hopeful that the second-year defensive tackle will be able to play in the season opener on Sept. 13, but his status remains uncertain.
“It doesn’t look to be overly serious, but I can’t put any timetables on it,” Harbaugh said. “But it’s not something that’s going to keep him out [for an extended time]. It’s not going to be a surgery or anything like that.”
Durability continues to be a concern for the 2014 second-round pick as he had already dealt with a foot ailment earlier that prevented him from playing in the preseason opener. As a rookie, Jernigan missed a total of five games with knee and foot injuries.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees expressed some frustration earlier this month about Jernigan missing valuable practice time as he prepares to take the reins from five-time Pro Bowl selection Haloti Ngata at the 3-technique defensive tackle spot. No one doubts Jernigan’s ability, but the physical ailments are becoming a concern at this early stage of his career.
“I still believe he’s the guy that we drafted,” Pees said on Aug. 17. “I just wish we could get him out there a little more, but that’s not his fault.”
Should Jernigan not be ready for the opener, Davis would take his place on the starting line after receiving extensive action this summer. The third-round selection has been the Ravens’ most impressive draft pick with first-round receiver Breshad Perriman and second-round tight end Maxx Williams both dealing with health concerns.
Davis logged 36 defensive snaps and one tackle against Washington. He has has collected seven tackles and a pass breakup in three preseason games.
The 6-foot-5, 320-pound Iowa product says he has plenty of room for improvement and is still trying to learn the little tricks needed to succeed at the next level.
“Offensive linemen are smart. They’ve got so many different techniques,” Davis said. “I’m just learning how to play more physical every play. Every play counts. I’m trying to focus on making sure I don’t take any plays off and get better every play.”