From rendering players unavailable to forcing the league to drastically alter its schedule, COVID-19 has left an indelible impact on the 2020 NFL season. Unfortunately for the Baltimore Ravens, they just suffered a brutal blow to their roster due to the coronavirus.
Can John Harbaugh’s team overcome the short-term loss of one of the NFL’s elite nose tackles? Or will Baltimore’s top-ranked scoring defense take a step back this week against the Philadelphia Eagles?
COVID-19 continues to cause issues for NFL teams
While the NBA succeeded at keeping COVID-19 at bay, the NFL has not been so fortunate. The first quarter of the 2020 season has seen several franchises suffer critical blows from the coronavirus.
The New England Patriots had to place Cam Newton on the reserve/COVID-19 list right before they were set to take on the Kansas City Chiefs. As a result, the league moved the matchup between the two AFC powerhouses from Sunday to Monday night. Bill Belichick’s team has also had to place several other players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, including Stephon Gilmore and, most recently, James Ferentz.
Plus, the Tennessee Titans had a COVID-19 crisis that forced the league to consider changing the playoff seeding formula. So far, the NFL has not altered anything related to the postseason. However, given the uncertainty of COVID-19, that could change if more outbreaks occur.
The Ravens just suffered a brutal COVID-19 blow
For the Ravens, the 2020 season has gone about as well as they could have expected. Baltimore thoroughly outplayed the Cleveland Browns in Week 1. Lamar Jackson torched Cleveland’s defense with 275 passing yards and three touchdowns. He followed up with a rock-solid performance in the Ravens’ Week 2 win against the Houston Texans.
However, the Ravens just suffered a brutal blow from COVID-19 that robs them of one of their best players. On Saturday, Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network reported via Twitter that Baltimore placed Brandon Williams on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The 31-year-old defensive tackle reportedly did not test positive but did have “close contact with an infected person.”
Per NFL-NFLPA protocols, Williams must be isolated for at least five days. Obviously, this means he won’t be available on Sunday against an Eagles team that continues to deal with personnel issues of their own.
Losing Brandon Williams could be problematic for Baltimore’s defense
Brandon Williams may not draw much national recognition, but Ravens fans know how valuable he is to the team’s defense. The 6-foot-1, 336-pound nose tackle has started 93 games since Baltimore selected him in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft. Though he does not provide much pass-rush production, he’s one of the top run-stuffers in the league.
According to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, the Ravens have allowed an average of just 87.2 rushing yards in the 47 games Williams has played since 2017. However, Baltimore has surrendered 160.3 rushing yards in the six games he has missed over the last three years.
Obviously, that highlights how critical the nose tackle is to Baltimore’s defense. Luckily for the Ravens, they don’t face a particularly effective rushing attack on Sunday.
The Eagles currently rank just 18th in the NFL with 108 rushing yards per game. That shouldn’t come as a surprise given Philadelphia’s rash of injuries.
To make matters worse, his replacement, Jason Peters, also landed on IR with a toe injury. This week, the Eagles will also be without right tackle Lane Johnson, who remains out with an ankle issue.
Ultimately, given Philadelphia’s personnel issues along the offensive line, the Ravens shouldn’t experience a major drop-off without Williams in the lineup. But if the veteran misses more time than expected, that could become a problem given Baltimore’s documented struggles against the run when Williams has not been available.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.