Sunday, August 17, 2014
Time to shelve Webb, Smith for preseason
By Jamison Hensley
Teams can't play scared and rest every starter for the entire preseason. But there are instances when you have to play it safe.
For the Baltimore Ravens, it's time to be safe and smart with their starting cornerbacks. Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb shouldn't suit up for another game until the Sept. 7 season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. Put a red jersey on them so no one hits them in practice. Heck, put them in bubble wrap if it ensures they'll be able to line up when games matter in three weeks.
Even if Smith (bruised chest) and Webb (back) can return in the preseason, the Ravens can't take the risk of getting either one banged up. The situation would be different if the Ravens had depth at that position. But they don't.
The Ravens are looking at 0-2 if they have to line up Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks as their starting cornerbacks against the likes of A.J. Green and Antonio Brown. This makes you yearn for the days of Frank Walker. Well, almost.
The Ravens' cornerback position has been as snakebitten as the drummers for Spinal Tap. Aaron Ross, who may have ended up as the Ravens' No. 3 cornerback, tore his Achilles in a conditioning test before training camp started. Webb hurt his back July 25 and hasn't practiced since. Asa Jackson, who had been the team's top backup, hurt his right ankle Aug. 10 and wore a protective boot at Saturday's preseason game.
The last injury the Ravens needed was one to Smith. Five plays into Saturday's preseason game, there was Smith landing on his back, hitting the back of his head against the turf and spitting up blood.
While Ravens coach John Harbaugh believes Smith "should be fine," the 2011 first-round pick was more concerned about his health status.
"I don't know what is wrong with me," Smith told The Baltimore Sun. "On the field, I was throwing up blood. The X-rays came back negative, but I still don't know what is the problem. I don't want to say I'm OK, or it is one thing, and then it is something else. I really don't know."
It only took one series for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to take advantage of Smith's absence. Wide receiver Dez Bryant elevated over Franks to pull in a Romo pass for a 31-yard touchdown.
The Ravens don't have many other options on the team. Tremain Jacobs is raw, and fellow undrafted rookie Deji Olatoye got beat on consecutive passes, including a 5-yard touchdown throw.
There are really no easy fixes here. If free agents like Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson could help, each would be in some team's training camp by now. The best bet is looking at the cornerbacks who get cut when teams trim their rosters to 53 before the regular season. Teams don't release good cornerbacks, but there could be a player who is better than what's on the Ravens roster right now.
Come the season opener, the Ravens may be in decent shape at cornerback if Smith, Webb and Jackson are all healthy enough to play. Harbaugh has never described any of those injuries as major.
But if either Smith or Webb can't start, there's going to be a vulnerable spot in the Ravens secondary that Andy Dalton and Ben Roethlisberger will look to exploit.