Depth Charge Helps Hobbled Team Rise

RAVENS BEAT

Ravens Beat

As Starters - And Backups - Go Down, Reserves Step Up

December 25, 2009|By JAMISON HENSLEY | JAMISON HENSLEY,jamison.hensley@ baltsun.com

When someone is out with an injury, the Ravens always talk about Next Man Up. This season, it has been more like Next Next Man Up.

Injuries have been a major story line for the Ravens in the second half of this season, but they have refused to allow it to become a factor in their playoff run.

After being healthy for the first nine games (three starters missed a total of five games), the Ravens have endured some pains the past five weeks (seven starters have been forced to miss games). These injury issues have hit three positions hard - wide receiver, offensive line and secondary - testing the Ravens' depth.

When wide receiver Mark Clayton went down with knee and hamstring injuries, Kelley Washington started in his place. When Washington injured his ankle in his first start, the team had to rely on fourth-string wide receiver Demetrius Williams to play.

On the offensive line, the Ravens would have replaced injured left tackle Jared Gaither (foot and back) with Adam Terry. But Terry, their top backup entering training camp, never made it to the preseason because of a knee injury. That meant Oniel Cousins, who hadn't been active all season, was pushed into a starting role in December.

But no area on the team has suffered more significant injuries than the secondary. When Fabian Washington went down with a season-ending knee injury Nov. 22, rookie Lardarius Webb took advantage of the opportunity and solidified himself as a starter.

Then, midway through his fourth start, Webb tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. With two starting cornerbacks on injured reserve, the Ravens are now starting their third cornerback (Chris Carr) opposite Domonique Foxworth.

It's the same issue at safety. The Ravens likely would have used Haruki Nakamura to fill in for Ed Reed. But Nakamura is already on injured reserve with an ankle injury. So with Reed sidelined with a groin injury, the Ravens have gone with Tom Zbikowski.

"We've been so unfortunate," Webb said of the secondary. "You start thinking, 'Who's next?' "

Another injury for the Ravens could make it Next Next Next Man Up.

Crowded trainer's room

A look at the starters who have missed games this season because of injury:

Games

Player, Position ................... Injury ........................... missed

M. Clayton, WR ........................Hamstring, ......................... 2

........................................ ...................knee................................................

J. Gaither, OT ........................ Foot, back ........................... 4

T. Gooden, LB ........................ Groin .................................. 2

H. Ngata, DT.............................. Ankle ................................. 2

E. Reed, S ............................... Neck, hip ............................ 3

T. Suggs, LB-DE ........................ Knee ............................... 3

F. Washington, CB ..................... Knee .............................. 3

L. Webb, CB ................................. Knee ........................... *IR

*Was placed on injured reserve Tuesday

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