Tag Archive | "Jimmy Smith"

Ravens-Steelers: Inactives and pre-game notes

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Ravens-Steelers: Inactives and pre-game notes

Posted on 02 November 2014 by Luke Jones

PITTSBURGH — Trying to keep pace in a very competitive AFC North, the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers renew their intense rivalry for Sunday Night Football for the third time in four years at Heinz Field.

With Cincinnati and Cleveland both winning on Sunday, the loser of Sunday night’s meeting will find themselves sitting in last place with a 5-4 record, an indicator of how tough the division has been so far this season. The Ravens seek their first regular-season sweep of the Steelers since 2011 while Pittsburgh is trying to win its third straight game for sole possession of second place right behind the Bengals.

The Ravens will be shorthanded in the secondary after cornerback Jimmy Smith was officially ruled out on Friday with a mid-foot sprain expected to keep him sidelined until at least after their Week 11 bye. Veteran Dominique Franks, who was re-signed by Baltimore less than a month ago — is expected to start opposite Lardarius Webb in the defensive backfield. How defensive coordinator Dean Pees uses the nickel package remains to be seen as strong safety Matt Elam handled the nickel position extensively earlier in the year when injuries at cornerback were a concern.

Tight end Owen Daniels is active and makes his return after only a one-game absence due to a cleanup procedure in his knee. He looked good running routes during pre-game warmups and practiced on Wednesday and Friday this past week.

As expected, defensive end Chris Canty (wrist) and right guard Marshal Yanda (knee) are also active after both were listed as questionable on the final injury report. Canty missed the last four games while recovering from surgery due to a wrist infection, but he was a full participant in practices all week.

After being inactive in each of Baltimore’s first eight games, second-year linebacker Arthur Brown is active for the first time this season. The 2013 second-round pick is expected to mostly fill a special-teams role, but he could see some snaps in the nickel package with his ability to blitz.

The biggest surprise on the inactive list was rookie safety Terrence Brooks after he was burned on a 53-yard reception on the Bengals’ final scoring drive last week. This will likely lead to more opportunities for safety Will Hill in the Baltimore secondary behind Elam and fellow starter Darian Stewart. Brooks was also inactive for Baltimore’s Week 3 win at Cleveland.

The Ravens will be playing Pittsburgh for the 38th time in their regular-season history as they own a 17-20 record. However, they have won three of their last four regular-season games at Heinz Field and own a 7-10 all-time record in Pittsburgh. The Ravens have won the last four games played in prime time against the Steelers as the teams have split the all-time prime-time series at 6-6.

The referee for Sunday night’s game will be Bill Vinovich.

According to Weather.com, the forecast in Pittsburgh Sunday night calls for temperatures to dip into the mid-30s, but no precipitation is expected and winds will only reach six miles per hour.

The Ravens will be wearing white jerseys with white pants for Sunday night’s game while Pittsburgh dons its black tops with yellow pants.

Below are the inactives for Sunday night:

BALTIMORE
CB Jimmy Smith
WR Michael Campanaro
S Terrence Brooks
LB Zach Orr
OL Gino Gradkowski
DE Lawrence Guy
OL Jah Reid

PITTSBURGH
CB Ike Taylor
S Ross Ventrone
QB Landry Jones
WR Justin Brown
CB B.W. Webb
DL Daniel McCullers
OL Chris Hubbard

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Sunday night

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Ravens-Steelers: Five predictions for Sunday night

Posted on 01 November 2014 by Luke Jones

No strangers to meeting in the national spotlight, the Ravens and Steelers will meet in prime time for the 13th time in the series history on Sunday night.

Baltimore will be looking for its first regular-season sweep of Pittsburgh since 2011 while the Steelers aim for their third straight win overall. Both teams enter the weekend right on the heels of the first-place Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC North.

Sunday marks the 38th time these teams have met in the regular season with the Steelers owning a 20-17 advantage. The Ravens are 7-11 in regular-season games played in Pittsburgh, but they’ve won three of the last four played at Heinz Field.

Here’s what to expect as the Ravens try to improve to 6-3 in a very competitive AFC North …

1. Steelers wideout Antonio Brown will catch a long touchdown in the first quarter as a reshuffled secondary tries to get its bearings. Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will need to be creative with coverages as top cornerback Jimmy Smith is out. The timing couldn’t be much worse as Brown has been arguably the best receiver in the NFL this season and is tied for the league lead with 10 catches of 25 or more yards. Pees will likely entrust Lardarius Webb to cover Brown, which is a daunting task for a cornerback working his way back to top form after a lengthy absence due to a back injury. A miscommunication will allow Brown to break free for a long score as the Ravens defense tries to get in sync.

2. Rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro will score a touchdown for a second straight game and lead the Ravens in rushing. Baltimore ran for 157 yards in the first meeting against the Steelers in Week 2, but it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the running game really wore down a tired Pittsburgh front. This defense is softer than the typical Steelers unit and ranks 11th against the run, and the physicality of Taliaferro will be a strong change of pace from shifty starter Justin Forsett. With concerns in their own secondary, the Ravens will want to control the clock and limit the Steelers’ opportunities for possessions and Taliaferro will get plenty of carries in the second half with Bernard Pierce now third on the depth chart.

3. The Baltimore defense will limit Le’Veon Bell’s production on the ground, but the Pittsburgh running back will lead his team in receptions. The Ravens are allowing only 3.7 yards per carry and rank seventh in the NFL in run defense as they’ve slowed opposing running backs all season. However, the Steelers are finding more and more ways to get the ball to the 244-pound back as a receiver as he’s second on the team in receiving yards. With the Ravens trying to account for not having Smith, they’re going to be content with giving cushion and allowing throws underneath to prevent the big play. Pittsburgh will use this to its advantage by getting the ball to Bell in the passing game.

4. Terrell Suggs will collect two sacks to pick up 100 for his career. There’s no downplaying how crucial it will be for the Ravens to generate pressure as they’ll be depending on the pair of Dominique Franks — who was on the street at this time a month ago — and Chykie Brown — who spent the last two weeks on the inactive list — at the cornerback position opposite Webb. Much like he’ll mix and disguise coverages in the back end, Pees will move Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, and Pernell McPhee around to confuse an improving offensive line and harass Roethlisberger. Suggs needs two sacks for 100 in his career, and nothing would be more fitting than doing it against the quarterback he’s sacked more than any other rusher has.

5. Pittsburgh will win a 26-23 game that goes back and forth for much of the night. Admittedly, when trying to break down Ravens-Steelers, it’s probably best to put aside the numbers and simply remember that 11 of the 15 total meetings in the John Harbaugh era — counting the postseason — have been decided by four or fewer points. However, the loss of Smith hurts more than any player on the current roster beyond quarterback Joe Flacco and the Steelers offense is playing at a high level at the wrong time for Baltimore. Both offenses will move the ball effectively, but the Steelers will do a little too much damage in the passing game for the Ravens to overcome.

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Yanda, Daniels, Canty listed as questionable for Steelers game

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Yanda, Daniels, Canty listed as questionable for Steelers game

Posted on 31 October 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Making final preparations for their prime-time battle with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens listed tight end Owen Daniels, defensive end Chris Canty, and right guard Marshal Yanda as questionable for Sunday’s game.

Daniels practiced Friday after he received Thursday off and is rapidly working his way back from last week’s cleanup procedure on his left knee. The veteran tight end was a limited participant on Wednesday after missing last week’s game in Cincinnati, but he was listed as a full participant for Friday’s workout.

Head coach John Harbaugh said a decision on Daniels likely won’t be made until Sunday evening, but he painted an optimistic picture for Yanda, who returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday and worked fully on Friday. Yanda injured his knee in Week 8, but he returned to play in the 27-24 loss to the Bengals.

“It’ll probably be a game-time [decision] for Owen, realistically, coming off knee surgery,” Harbaugh said. “Yanda practiced [Friday]. We’ll see how the knee reacts, but he’s a tough guy.”

Cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot) and wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring) were the only players absent from Friday’s practice as both were officially ruled out. Harbaugh said Monday that Smith would miss a few weeks with a mid-foot sprain, and the fourth-year cornerback is currently using crutches with his left foot in a protective boot.

Canty was a full participant all week and appears on track to make his return after a four-game absence due to surgery to address an infection in his wrist.

“Overall, I feel good; I feel healthy,” said Canty, who downplayed conditioning being a concern after a month-long layoff. “I think the coaches think I’m coming along nicely. We’ll see where we’re at, and they’ll evaluate things. Hopefully, I’ll have an opportunity to help this team win come Sunday.”

Running back Justin Forsett (ankle) and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (shin) were listed as probable for Sunday’s game after practicing for a second straight day. Also listed as probable was linebacker Terrell Suggs, who missed two practices this week before returning to the field on Friday.

Harbaugh said the veteran pass-rusher looked “fine” after some rest earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, the Steelers officially ruled out cornerback Ike Taylor and safety Ross Ventrone. Taylor had practiced on a limited basis this week, but Pittsburgh is trying to be cautious after he suffered a broken forearm in late September.

All other players listed on Pittsburgh’s injury report were listed as probable.

The referee for Sunday night’s game will be Bill Vinovich.

The forecast for Heinz Field on Sunday night calls for temperatures dipping into the 30s, but winds should dissipate in time for the 8:30 p.m. kickoff and there is only a 10 percent chance of precipitation.

Below is the final injury report for Sunday’s game:

BALTIMORE
OUT: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), CB Jimmy Smith (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: DE Chris Canty (wrist), TE Owen Daniels (knee), G Marshal Yanda (knee)
PROBABLE: RB Justin Forsett (ankle), DT Haloti Ngata (shin), LB Terrell Suggs (neck), CB Lardarius Webb (non-injury)

PITTSBURGH
OUT: CB Ike Taylor (forearm), S Ross Ventrone (hamstring)
PROBABLE: T Marcus Gilbert (concussion), DE Brett Keisel (non-injury), DT Steve McLendon (shoulder), TE Heath Miller (non-injury), S Michael Mitchell (non-injury), S Troy Polamalu (non-injury), LB Ryan Shazier (knee), TE Matt Spaeth (hamstring), S Shamarko Thomas (hamstring)

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Short-handed Ravens secondary has no time for excuses against Steelers

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Short-handed Ravens secondary has no time for excuses against Steelers

Posted on 30 October 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — There’s no hiding from the danger of Jimmy Smith being absent in the Ravens’ secondary, especially when you’re facing Ben Roethlisberger and a Pittsburgh Steelers passing game that threw for over 500 yards last week.

They won’t find an easy fix for a pass defense that ranks 22nd in the NFL and has looked vulnerable even with the Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback in the secondary. But the Ravens have no time to feel sorry for themselves as they look to improve to 6-3 in an ultra-competitive AFC North with all four teams currently sporting winning records.

“I don’t think the Steelers are feeling really bad about it, so we can’t feel really bad about it,” said defensive coordinator Dean Pees about Smith’s foot injury expected to keep him out at least until after the Week 11 bye. “We just have to go with the next guy. [We] have to do what we can do to try to get the guys in the best position we can put them in as a coaching staff to give them success and go with it.”

But who is that next guy opposite Lardarius Webb, who is still working his way back to pre-injury form himself?

Is it Dominique Franks, who recently found his way into the nickel package after being signed to replace the injured Asa Jackson in early October? He was on the free-agent market at this time last month after being deemed not good enough by Baltimore at the end of the preseason.

Then there’s Chykie Brown, who entered training camp as the favorite to be the No. 3 cornerback behind Smith and Webb before struggling so dramatically that he was a healthy inactive the last two weeks. Safety Anthony Levine has also practiced at the cornerback position since the summer, but he’s played only five defensive snaps all season.

The Ravens could promote Tramain Jacobs — a rookie free agent from Texas A&M who impressed during training camp — from the practice squad, but a move such as that would likely see him serving on a special-teams role and as an insurance policy behind the others.

None of the aforementioned options opposite Webb inspire confidence, and that’s assuming Pees uses one of the Ravens’ safeties at the nickel position as he has for large stretches of the season.

“We’ve got to find somebody to step up,” strong safety Matt Elam said. “We know it’s going to be hard to do the things Jimmy’s been doing, but we need somebody to step up and do whatever it takes to help the team win. We’ve still got [time] to prepare and get right so we can execute. Just do whatever it takes to get a [win].”

It’s easier said than done against an offense sporting arguably the best receiver in the NFL in Antonio Brown as well as emerging young wideouts Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton. Pees spoke Thursday about the challenge of not being able to put all their focus on slowing Brown with Roethlisberger suddenly having more options to throw to at the wide receiver position.

Needless to say, the pressure to contain Brown is likely to fall on the shoulders of Webb, whose own status many were questioning just a few weeks ago after a back injury had wiped out his entire summer as well as much of the first month of the season. The 5-foot-10 Brown isn’t physically imposing, which is good news for the similarly-statured Webb if he’s to shadow him all over the field.

Now would be a great time for Webb to regain the form he enjoyed prior to his second ACL injury in 2012 when he was on the verge of becoming one of the best cornerbacks in the AFC. His style is a major contrast to the 6-foot-2 Smith, who uses a combination of speed and physicality.

“Webb is more [of] a quicker guy and a lot smaller, more fluid, [and has good hands],” said Brown, who leads the NFL with 60 receptions on a staggering 87 targets in eight games. “Smith is a bigger, stronger guy who they like to put on the line of scrimmage and be disruptive at the line of scrimmage.”

The good news for the Ravens defense is the overall familiarity the coaching staff and veteran players have with the Pittsburgh offense. There are few surprises between these teams and the Ravens were certainly able to harass Roethlisberger in their Week 2 win in Baltimore when they held the Steelers to only six points.

But the Ravens know the pass rush must be on point in not only disrupting the signal-caller’s timing but in keeping him in the pocket as head coach John Harbaugh acknowledged no one is capable of the “extend the play thing” better than Roethlisberger. It’s a scene all too familiar in watching the Pittsburgh quarterback escape pressure to eventually find an open receiver breaking away from downfield coverage.

The challenge is always there for a coordinator to strike the right balance between sending extra blitzers — leaving fewer in coverage — or playing with more defenders in the back end and relying on a four-man rush, but Pees will need to be more creative than ever with the shortage at cornerback. How the secondary will look is anyone’s guess as the Ravens may go back to Elam playing the nickel position as they’ve frequently done this season or they could turn to another such as the intriguing Will Hill or rookie Terrence Brooks, who played some nickel in the preseason.

It won’t be easy against the league’s fourth-ranked passing game, but anyone knows not to dwell too much on the numbers in this AFC North rivalry in which 10 of the last 13 regular-season meetings have been decided by three or fewer points.

“We have the guys we need. Every team faces some kind of a situation at some position,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve had injuries all year in different positions, and you just have to step up. It’s not something we talk about. We don’t make a big deal about it. It’s not a point of emphasis for us. It’s just we’re the team; it’s the Ravens’ team. And whoever is part of it goes out there and plays and does their best.”

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Forsett, Ngata, Yanda return to practice on Thursday

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Forsett, Ngata, Yanda return to practice on Thursday

Posted on 30 October 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — After seven players missed Wednesday’s practice as the Ravens prepare to play the arch rival Pittsburgh Steelers, three starters returned to the field a day later.

Running back Justin Forsett (ankle), right guard Marshal Yanda (knee), and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (shin) were all present and working after sitting out Wednesday’s workout. Cornerback Lardarius Webb (non-injury) was also practicing after receiving a veteran day off.

Linebacker Terrell Suggs (neck), wide receiver Michael Campanaro (hamstring), and cornerback Jimmy Smith (foot) remained sidelined. Tight end Owen Daniels (knee) was not present during the portion of practice open to media after working on a limited basis Wednesday.

It remains to be seen whether the Ravens were simply resting Daniels or his knee didn’t respond as favorably as they’d hoped to him practicing so soon after last week’s cleanup procedure.

Wide receiver Steve Smith and linebacker Daryl Smith were not present during the viewing portion of practice, but they were not listed on Thursday’s injury report.

Defensive end Chris Canty (wrist surgery) was practicing once again after being listed as a full participant on Wednesday’s injury report. It appears the veteran will have a good chance of returning to action against Pittsburgh if his conditioning is up to par after a four-game absence due to an infection in his wrist.

For the Steelers, cornerback Ike Taylor (forearm) was a limited participant for the second straight day, leaving open the possibility of him playing for the first time since Week 3.

Below is Thursday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: WR Michael Campanaro (thigh), TE Owen Daniels (knee), CB Jimmy Smith (foot), LB Terrell Suggs (neck)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: RB Justin Forsett (ankle), G Marshal Yanda (knee)
FULL PARTICIPATION: DE Chris Canty (wrist), DT Haloti Ngata (shin), , CB Lardarius Webb (non-injury)

PITTSBURGH
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Brett Keisel (non-injury), TE Heath Miller (non-injury), S Troy Polamalu (non-injury), S Ross Ventrone (hamstring)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: S Michael Mitchell (non-injury), CB Ike Taylor (forearm)
FULL PARTICIPATION: T Marcus Gilbert (concussion), DT Steve McLendon (shoulder), LB Ryan Shazier (knee), TE Matt Spaeth (hamstring), S Shamarko Thomas (hamstring)

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Trade deadline passes without any Ravens activity

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Trade deadline passes without any Ravens activity

Posted on 28 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The NFL trade deadline came and went Tuesday without the Ravens making any moves as they prepare for a key Week 9 game in Pittsburgh.

The news is hardly surprising with activity at the NFL’s deadline paling in comparison to the other major sports historically. In fact, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the only team to sell off players Tuesday by trading safety Mark Barron to the St. Louis Rams and linebacker Jonathan Casillas to the New England Patriots in exchange for draft picks.

The Ravens completed their first in-season trade in franchise history last season when they dealt fourth- and fifth-round picks in the 2014 draft to Jacksonville for current left tackle Eugene Monroe on Oct. 1, 2013. Baltimore followed that with another trade later that month by sending benched tackle Bryant McKinnie to Miami for a seventh-round pick.

This year, general manager Ozzie Newsome explored possibilities at the cornerback position in the wake of the mid-foot sprain suffered by Jimmy Smith in Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati, but the reality is that all teams value quality cornerback play and aren’t willing to part with it cheaply. With Smith expected to be sidelined at least until after the Week 11 bye, the Ravens only have three healthy cornerbacks on their 53-man roster — Lardarius Webb, Dominique Franks, and Chykie Brown.

Baltimore could turn to the open market for another option, but such a move would be no more than adding a warm body and the Ravens have a number of safeties who can play the nickel position including Matt Elam, Terrence Brooks, and Anthony Levine. Quality defensive backs just don’t grow on trees in this pass-happy, offense-driven era of professional football.

“We don’t have to [add someone]. If we can find the right guy, we would do that,” head coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “They’re scarce. If you’ve got a name for me, I’m willing to hear it.”

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees will need to be creative in not only dialing up consistent pressure up front to aid the secondary but in finding the right formula for coverage in the back end. Webb is improving but hasn’t looked like the force he was prior to his ACL injury in 2012 while it’s difficult to label Franks and Brown as anything but liabilities based on what we’ve seen so far in 2014.

The solution — or some semblance of one — will likely fall in how effectively Pees uses his safeties with Will Hill as the biggest wild card at this point. Baltimore has employed Elam as a nickel back for much of the season, but the 2013 first-round pick has struggled in coverage, making you wonder if Hill or or even the rookie Brooks might be a better fit for that role. Using a safety in the nickel spot can certainly provide an edge playing against the run, but enough range and ability in pass coverage are obvious requirements for it to work.

The Ravens need to find answers quickly as the Steelers’ fourth-ranked passing game awaits Sunday, but they didn’t find any help with the deadline passing on Tuesday afternoon.

 

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Other than Flacco, who is most indispensable on 2014 Ravens?

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Other than Flacco, who is most indispensable on 2014 Ravens?

Posted on 28 October 2014 by Luke Jones

With Ravens head coach John Harbaugh announcing Monday that cornerback Jimmy Smith would be sidelined a few weeks with a mid-foot sprain, the news sparked a debate many fans might not want to think about.

Other than quarterback Joe Flacco — there’s no disputing that he tops the list — who is the one player the 2014 Ravens can least afford to lose in the middle of the season? We’re not talking about pondering offseason changes or considering who will become a free agent, but it’s merely a question of which player other than Flacco is most indispensable to the Ravens’ fortunes between now and the end of the season.

When you take into account the Ravens’ lack of depth at cornerback and the struggles they’ve already had in the secondary this season, Smith tops my list as he was the only defensive back playing well enough to significantly limit an opponent’s passing game. It’s difficult to find quality cornerbacks in the modern NFL that’s driven by offense, but Smith has been graded as the fourth-best corner in coverage by Pro Football Focus this season.

Even though fellow starting cornerback Lardarius Webb has improved from where he was a month ago, you’re still not seeing the kind of play from him that we saw prior to his second ACL injury in 2012. And the options beyond him, Dominique Franks and Chykie Brown, clearly aren’t starting-caliber players, making Smith’s loss one that will cause restless nights for Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

The Ravens aren’t necessarily doomed, but they’re going to need a robust pass rush in the coming weeks for that secondary to hold up without Smith.

Of course, the Ravens have a handful of others whose loss would be a significant blow.

Five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is having his best season in a few years and provides so much versatility in being able to play multiple techniques on the defensive line.

What more can be said about veteran wideout Steve Smith, who leads the Ravens in receptions and receiving yards by a wide margin?

You might be able to find a serviceable kicker to fill in for Justin Tucker, but his range from beyond 50 and pinpoint accuracy inside that mark are skills that shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially in games when your offense isn’t firing on all cylinders.

Veteran Jeremy Zuttah was the only significant offseason addition to an offensive line that was a disaster in 2013. Would the Ravens hold up with Gino Gradkowski or John Urschel filling in at that critical center position?

And the man next to Zuttah, three-time Pro Bowl right guard Marshal Yanda, has only graded out as the best guard in the NFL by PFF with the Ravens running more effectively to the right side all season.

Would running back Justin Forsett receive your vote with Bernard Pierce struggling mightily and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro the only other option?

The Ravens saw firsthand Sunday what it was like to be without tight end Owen Daniels with only rookie Crockett Gillmore and former practice-squad member Phillip Supernaw behind him, and we know how offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak values the position.

Would Terrell Suggs or Elvis Dumervil be your choice even though outside linebacker is the deepest position on the roster for the Ravens?

Beyond Flacco, who is the player the 2014 Ravens can least afford to lose? Be sure to consider roster depth at any given position as this isn’t a simple question of who is the best player.

Vote in our poll and leave a comment below if I’ve overlooked someone entirely.

Other than Joe Flacco, which player can the 2014 Ravens least afford to lose?

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Jimmy Smith sidelined “a few weeks” with mid-foot sprain

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Jimmy Smith sidelined “a few weeks” with mid-foot sprain

Posted on 27 October 2014 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — A day after a disappointing road loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens received troubling news about the status of cornerback Jimmy Smith’s injured foot.

Smith exited Sunday’s game with a left foot sprain on the first drive of the game and didn’t return. A magnetic resonance imaging exam Monday confirmed the fourth-year defensive back will be sidelined at least until after the Ravens’ bye week, but head coach John Harbaugh is remaining optimistic that the injury isn’t as bad as some feared.

“Jimmy’s going to be out for a few weeks. It’s not a Lisfranc deal, which was speculated,” Harbaugh said. “It’s a mid-foot sprain, and he’ll be out for a few weeks, but he’ll be back soon.”

The Ravens are currently ranked 22nd in pass defense and now have just three healthy cornerbacks on the 53-man roster. With struggling fourth-year cornerback Chykie Brown inactive the last two weeks, defensive coordinator Dean Pees used Dominique Franks in Smith’s place opposite fellow starter Lardarius Webb. Safety Matt Elam was used in the nickel position as he was earlier in the year when Webb was still working his way back from a back injury.

The NFL’s trade deadline falls at 4 p.m. Tuesday, but the Baltimore coach did not sound optimistic about being able to add a quality corner, whether through trade or the free-agent market. General manager Ozzie Newsome re-signed Franks on Oct. 8 after the Ravens cut him at the end of the preseason.

“We don’t have to [add someone]. If we can find the right guy, we would do that,” Harbaugh said. “They’re scarce. If you’ve got a name for me, I’m willing to hear it.”

There’s no understating the loss of Smith, who is ranked as the fourth-best coverage cornerback in the NFL in Pro Football Focus’ grading system. Regarded by many as the best player on the Baltimore defense this season, Smith has collected 28 tackles, an interception, and eight pass breakups in eight games.

The timing couldn’t be worse for an already vulnerable pass defense that will now face Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in Week 9 after he threw for 522 yards and six touchdown passes against a highly-regarded Indianapolis defense on Sunday. The Ravens also have post-bye games in late November against New Orleans and San Diego, two teams with Pro Bowl quarterbacks and passing games currently ranked in the top 10.

Even though the Ravens have already exercised their fifth-year option on his rookie contract, Smith has now been stricken with substantial injuries in three of his four NFL seasons. As a rookie in 2011, Smith suffered a high ankle sprain that kept him sidelined for four games. In his second year, the former first-round pick missed five games after undergoing sports hernia surgery.

Smith started all 16 games for the Ravens in 2013 and was a bright spot for a defense in transition.

After many pointed out their lack of depth at the cornerback position throughout the offseason, the Ravens have now seen Webb, Smith, and third-year defensive back Asa Jackson miss time with injuries this year. Jackson is currently on injured reserve with the designation to return after suffering a toe injury against Indianapolis on Oct. 5.

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Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith exits Sunday’s loss with foot injury

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Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith exits Sunday’s loss with foot injury

Posted on 26 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The most concerning development stemming from the Ravens’ 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday may have been the injury to top cornerback Jimmy Smith.

The fourth-year defensive back sustained a sprained left foot on the opening drive of the game and did not return. Smith initially jogged off the field with a pronounced limp before being carted to the locker room for further examination.

The Ravens announced Smith’s return was doubtful late in the first half, but he did not play the rest of the way.

In his absence, the Ravens had only two active cornerbacks in fellow starter Lardarius Webb and veteran Dominique Franks, who was forced into starting duty for the rest of the game. Struggling cornerback Chykie Brown was a healthy inactive for Sunday’s game.

Baltimore will hope Smith is healthy enough to return to action next Sunday as they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who threw for an incredible 522 yards and six touchdowns in a win over Indianapolis on Sunday.

Wide receiver Michael Campanaro also left the game with a hamstring injury and didn’t return.

Offensive linemen Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, and Marshal Yanda and wide receiver Torrey Smith also left the game at various points before returning to action.

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Controversial call shouldn’t forgive Ravens’ late-game shortcomings

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Controversial call shouldn’t forgive Ravens’ late-game shortcomings

Posted on 26 October 2014 by Luke Jones

The fallout from the Ravens’ 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday centered around the controversial offensive pass interference call that wiped out what would have been an 80-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Steve Smith in the final minute.

Frustration was understandable as Smith and safety George Iloka jockeyed for position on the deep ball before the veteran receiver’s hand made contact with the defender’s jersey, and, well, the rest was open to interpretation. Whether you saw Smith pulling the Bengals defensive back to the ground or Iloka doing a fine acting job, it was the kind of play that would have made the Bengals and their fans just as angry had the touchdown stood without any penalty, but we’ve all seen the direction of the NFL in recent years with more flags being thrown in the passing game and offensive pass interference being a proverbial “point of emphasis” this season.

Let’s not forget we’re also talking about the Ravens needing an 80-yard prayer to pull out the victory in Cincinnati, which speaks to the shortcomings on both sides of the ball leading up to that moment.

Was offensive pass interference on Steve Smith's 80-yard touchdown the right call?

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Yes, injuries were a significant storyline for the Ravens in Week 8 as they missed the short-to-intermediate presence of tight end Owen Daniels as well as the Pro Bowl-caliber play of Jimmy Smith in the secondary after the cornerback exited in the first half with a sprained left foot. Baltimore was also missing a number of other players at various times in the game as offensive linemen Eugene Monroe, Kelechi Osemele, and Marshal Yanda as well as wide receivers Torrey Smith and Michael Campanaro received varying degrees of medical attention.

But the story could have been much different had the Ravens gotten more from either side of the ball in the final six minutes of the game and not put it in the hands of an official making a questionable call.

It was a bad day for Flacco as he threw two interceptions and completed only 50 percent of his passes, but the Ravens offense had its second straight possession off a turnover after safety Matt Elam stripped a pass away from wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and the ball landed in the arms of linebacker C.J. Mosley with 6:12 remaining and Baltimore leading 21-20. With the ball at the Cincinnati 43, the Ravens had the opportunity to add to their lead while running down a huge chunk of the clock, but they were unable to pick up as much as a first down and instead settled for a 53-yard field goal for Justin Tucker.

Though the Ravens came away with points, a few first downs and a touchdown would have made it a 28-20 lead and left little time on the clock for the Bengals. Instead, Tucker’s field goal went through the uprights with 3:59 still remaining.

And that’s when the defense followed its two biggest plays of the game — game-changing turnovers created by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and the combination of Elam and Mosley — with a letdown drive in which the Bengals ultimately won it. A secondary forced to rely on cornerback Dominique Franks in a starting role was in position to steal the win in Cincinnati before rookie safety Terrence Brooks lost Sanu in coverage for a 53-yard completion on third-and-10. Instead of the Bengals punting deep in their own territory and needing to use their timeouts in hopes of getting the ball back, the Ravens were burned on third-and-long and Cincinnati moved inside the Baltimore 30 with less than four minutes remaining.

Baltimore surrendered another third-down reception to Greg Little to move the Bengals inside the 10 before quarterback Andy Dalton crossed the goal line on fourth-and-goal from the 1 with 57 seconds to go.

The Ravens couldn’t make a stop when they needed it, instead allowing Dalton and the Bengals to drive 80 yards on 10 plays in just over three minutes.

Dwell on the interference call if you’d like, but the Ravens had their chances to protect their late lead.

Of course, there were earlier moments on which the Ravens can look back such as the decision to throw a fourth-and-goal pass from the 1 to Kamar Aiken that netted zero points on the opening drive of the game or the fact that running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was Baltimore’s leader in receiving yards with 42, illustrating receivers’ inability to get open down the field. Flacco’s pair of interceptions led to 10 points, which put the Ravens in an 11-point hole early in the second half.

And the defense allowed Dalton to complete 75 percent of his passes as the secondary was bending throughout the game before finally breaking late.

Did the Ravens receive the short end of the stick on the interference call that wiped out the last-second touchdown to Steve Smith?

Perhaps.

But needing an 80-yard miracle wasn’t exactly how you draw it up before that little yellow flag was ultimately thrown.

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