OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens will be without a starting offensive lineman and could be without one of their starting cornerbacks for Sunday’s much-anticipated meeting with New Orleans.
Left guard Alex Lewis was officially ruled out after missing practices all week with the neck injury sustained at Tennessee, but an unexpected concern is the status of cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who was designated as questionable on the final injury report. The 2017 first-round pick suffered what’s being labeled a thigh injury during Thursday’s practice and did not take part in Friday’s walk-through session that was closed to reporters.
Head coach John Harbaugh said Humphrey is receiving treatment and that the Ravens would “just see how it goes” in terms of whether he’ll be available to try to help slow Saints quarterback Drew Brees and the NFL’s top-ranked scoring offense. Of course, Baltimore would still have veteran cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith to start on the outside with Tavon Young manning the nickel, but the luxury of rotating fresh players at every level has been a calling card for the league’s No. 1 scoring defense this season.
You’d rather not have to test that depth against one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and the league’s third-ranked passing offense.
“We just don’t talk about that stuff,” Harbaugh said. “You just move on. If he’s there, he’s there. If he’s not, he’s not, and that’s how you do it. It’s not something you give too much thought to. That’s how the league works.”
Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale has distributed snaps among his top three outside corners since Smith returned from a four-game suspension two weeks ago. Should Humphrey not be able to play against the Saints, the Ravens would be one injury away from having a problem on the outside as rookie cornerback Anthony Averett is just returning from a long-term hamstring injury and only practiced on a limited basis this week. The 5-foot-9 Young played extensively as an outside corner as a rookie two years ago, but both he and the recently-acquired Cyrus Jones are more ideal at the nickel.
Pro Football Focus has graded Humphrey as the 18th-best cornerback in the NFL — and Baltimore’s best — so far this season.
Lewis’ absence was expected after he was carted off the field on a stretcher early in the fourth quarter of the 21-0 win over the Titans and later diagnosed with a pinched nerve, according to Harbaugh. What remains to be seen is how the Ravens approach their offensive line for Week 7 with starting right tackle James Hurst likely playing a pivotal role. Since Hurst hadn’t practiced at left guard — where he started last season — all last week, the Ravens chose not to disrupt two different line positions and simply inserted rookie Bradley Bozeman at left guard in place of Lewis.
With a full week to prepare, the Ravens may shift Hurst to left guard and start rookie third-round pick Orlando Brown Jr. at right tackle. Brown has played 37 offensive snaps this season and has occasionally served as a sixth offensive lineman in certain packages, but he played extensively as the first-team right tackle during the preseason and is considered the right tackle of the future.
“We’re not showing our hand. On the other side of the coin, it’s really not a big deal,” said Harbaugh, who was pleased with how both Brown and Bozeman practiced this week. “It’s really not a big deal. Guys get hurt for both teams. Guys play, guys don’t play, guys come back. It’s just part of the process.
“We’ve done well with injuries. We’ve been very blessed so far this year, and we’re not worried about that.”
(Update: On Saturday, Hurst was added to the injury report with a questionable designation because of a back issue, but the Ravens did not promote an extra offensive lineman to the 53-man roster, making it likely the veteran lineman will at least be active on Sunday.)
The Saints have placed wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (knee) on injured reserve and ruled out starting left guard Andrus Peat with a head injury. Starting right guard Larry Warford was listed as questionable with a back injury.
The Weather.com forecast for Sunday’s game in Baltimore calls for sunny skies and temperatures reaching the mid-50s, but winds 15 to 25 miles per hour could create problems for both passing games.
Returning to M&T Bank Stadium after playing four of their first six games on the road, the 4-2 Ravens will now reap the benefits of playing four of their next five at home. However, the next three opponents — New Orleans, Carolina, and Pittsburgh — all made the playoffs last season while their first post-bye game will be against Cincinnati, who is tied with the Ravens for first place in the AFC North.
“It’s a good place to be. The challenge is they’re all really good teams, and that’s how the NFL works,” Harbaugh said. “Wouldn’t rather have them anywhere else — that’s for sure — than with our fans and in our stadium here in Baltimore.”
Below is the final injury report of the week:
OUT: G Alex Lewis (neck)
QUESTIONABLE: CB Anthony Averett (hamstring), CB Marlon Humphrey (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (hamstring)
OUT: G Andrus Peat (head), DT Taylor Stallworth (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: OL Jermon Bushrod (non-injury), G Larry Warford (back)