The Baltimore Ravens won their last Sunday Night Football matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars but they endured a crucial loss for their postseason and Super Bowl-winning aspirations: running back Keaton Mitchell suffered a season-ending injury.
Head coach John Harbaugh teased the worst possible news on Sunday's postgame press conference and he confirmed the outcome on Monday's presser, saying Mitchell suffered a "long-term knee thing."
According to Ravens beat reporter Mike Preston of The Baltimore Sun, there are three players in Baltimore the franchise could not afford to lose, Mitchell being one of them.
Mitchell is "irreplaceable alongside quarterback Lamar Jackson and middle linebacker Roquan Smith," wrote Preston. The running back will miss the remainder of the season with his torn ACL and he'll (hopefully) be ready once the 2024 season gets rolling next September.
"There were three players the Ravens couldn’t afford to lose Sunday night against the Jaguars. One of them was Keaton Mitchell.[He is] irreplaceable along with quarterback Lamar Jackson and middle linebacker Roquan Smith,- Mike Preston, The Baltimore Sun
Preston thinks Mitchell gave the Ravens "a full arsenal of weapons" once he returned from Injured Reserve midway through the season. "They had an abundance of speed in Mitchell, Jackson and rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers," Preston wrote.
"Jackson and Mitchell together forced defenses to play them 'honest' and cover sideline to sideline," the beat reporter reasoned. He sounded worried about Mitchell's absence going forward, saying the Ravens "don’t have a player on the roster—aside from Jackson—who can deliver the same big-play explosion as Mitchell."
With Mitchell sidelined, the Ravens will have to adjust their top-ranked rushing attack, one that currently leads the NFL but that might find some challenges to keep up their pace during the final three regular-season games, let alone the playoffs.
The team will move on to rely heavily on Gus Edwards as the leading rusher and Justice Hill as his main backup. Edwards has been effective this season, with 163 carries for 663 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hill has contributed 71 carries for 313 yards and three touchdowns.
Additionally, Baltimore is set to sign two-time Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon to a one-year deal for the remainder of the season, thus making him available to play once he's moved to the 53-man, active roster.
Gordon has been limited this season, playing in only two games at the start of the year (with J.K. Dobbins out for the season and Mitchell still sitting on IR) with 53 yards on 13 carries.
Harbaugh praised Gordon's work ethic and readiness, stating, "He’s been working so hard. His opportunity comes. He’s been there before. He’s a high-pedigree, great player, talented."
It's hard to argue against Preston's view of the situation. Edwards has been great in "limited" time, but his gaudy scoring numbers were a bit of a fluke and he's regressed a bit in the past few games. Here's hoping the backfield can at least produce going forward and, as Preston noted, "keep defenses honest" when it comes to defending the pass and the run game.