OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Eliminated from playoff contention and mired in their first losing season since John Harbaugh took over in 2008, the Baltimore Ravens have already started to peek ahead toward next season.
The team's expansive injury list has forced several inexperienced players to step in as starters. Their performance with the Ravens (4-9) will be scrutinized by Harbaugh over the final three games — beginning Sunday at home against Kansas City.
"That's what this is about right now for these young guys," Harbaugh said Monday. "Let's see how good you can get, how well you can play for the next three weeks of the season. In my mind, next year's season has already begun. We're developing these guys, what we're going to be next year. Let's see how good we can get."
Among other things, Harbaugh will seek to determine how Kelechi Osemele plays at left tackle for the injured Eugene Monroe; whether Lardarius Webb can be effective at free safety; and who can be effective at cornerback in Webb's place.
"I know we have a lot of guys who can play," Harbaugh said. "We've got to put them in the right spot the rest of the way."
The hope is to try to win this season while developing talent for the future.
"We're going to put our best lineup out there," he said. "We're not just going to try guys out. Let's see how well these guys play and let's see where we begin next year."
A 35-6 pounding by the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday left Baltimore with little to play for except pride. TheRavens must win at least once more to avoid matching the worst record in franchise history.
"We're going through a painful, tough season," Harbaugh acknowledged. "We just cannot find a way to pull ourselves out of this."
The Ravens put another player on injured reserve Monday, ending the season of 33-year-old defensive end Chris Canty (torn pectoral muscle).
"He's played really great football, but more than that he's been a tremendous leader," Harbaugh said.
There aren't too many positions in which Baltimore isn't banged up. That includes quarterback: Matt Schaub, who stepped in for an injured Joe Flacco, was too hurt to play against the Seahawks and was replaced by Jimmy Clausen.
Schaub uncertain: Schaub's status for Kansas City remains uncertain. As far as backups at the position, Harbaugh said he "can't confirm" reports that Baltimore signed free agent quarterback Ryan Mallett.
Prior to this season, the Ravens reached the playoffs in six of Harbaugh's first seven years. The lone exception was an 8-8 performance in 2013, and even that season Baltimore was in the hunt to the final day of the season.
This season, though, has been decidedly different — and not in a good way.
"I've learned a lot," Harbaugh said. "I know I'm a much better man and coach than I was four months ago. I understand some things I didn't understand four months ago. I want to encourage our players and coaches to look at it the same way."
That was his message to the team on Sunday night in the wake of the team's most lopsided defeat since December 2013.
"I told the guys, 'These are challenges that you don't anticipate, you don't plan for. It's not what you dream of, to be in this situation and have this kind of record,'" Harbaugh said. "'You have an opportunity to make a statement of who you are as a man and what you stand for.'"
The Ravens' sad season has lessened national interest in their late games. Their matchup with Seattle was flexed from prime time to 1 p.m., and the league announced that the starting time of Baltimore's home game against Pittsburgh on Dec. 27 would be shifted from 8:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. if the New York Giants beat Miami on Monday night.