NFL Nation: Tremain Jacobs

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.

Webb
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.

Smith

"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.

Breaking down Ravens 2014 camp

August, 15, 2014
8/15/14
9:00
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OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens wrapped up their 19th training camp, one that will be remembered for Steve Smith's spectacular catches, Jimmy Smith's deflections, Kelechi Osemele's pulverizing hits and a couple of season-ending injuries to the defensive line.

Looking to rebound from their worst season since 2007, the Ravens believe they're a much better team than the one that began camp three weeks ago.

"That's the beauty of training camp -- you have an opportunity to really see [the] progress," coach John Harbaugh said. "You're in a crucible, and every single day it's all you do. It's wall-to-wall football. It's morning to night. You go to sleep and you wake up, and you're back at football. There's no escape. There's nowhere to hide, [and] there's nowhere to run. It's all football all the time, so you make progress rapidly, but you have to because you have a long way to go. We just have so much work to do still between now and then, and that's what we have to focus on.”

With 24 days until the season opener, this is what stood out in this year's training camp:

Osemele
Most impressive player of camp, offense: Left guard Kelechi Osemele. If he dominates this way in the regular season, the Ravens could have another Pro Bowl guard. He put so many defensive players on their backs that I'm surprised IHOP hasn't signed him to an endorsement deal.

Most impressive player, defense: Cornerback Jimmy Smith. He has carried all of the momentum from last year into this summer. Smith was the only defensive back who repeatedly won in one-on-one drills, and he regularly knocked down the few passes thrown in his direction.

Most disappointing player, offense: Wide receiver Deonte Thompson. He never resembled a player who had made the Ravens the past two seasons. His continual drops have pushed him on the wrong side of the bubble.

Most disappointing player, defense: Cornerback Chykie Brown. He entered camp as the front-runner for the No. 3 job, and he's now the biggest concern on the defense after allowing a deep pass on nearly every day of camp. Injuries to Lardarius Webb and Asa Jackson have put Brown on the first-team defense by default.

Smith
Best play: Wide receiver Torrey Smith. He provide the highlight of camp during a red-zone drill at M&T Bank Stadium, where he skied in the air over cornerback Asa Jackson and hauled in Joe Flacco's pass with one hand.

Worst play: Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore suffered a season-ending Achilles injury on the second day of joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers. It's a scene that won't soon be forgotten, from his gut-wrenching screams while laying on the ground to players from both teams kneeling down to pray around him.

Best addition: Wide receiver Steve Smith. It's hard to remember a day when you weren't by a catch he made.

Daniels
Most disappointing addition: Tight end Owen Daniels. Unlike Steve Smith, Daniels looked like a player who doesn't have much left.

Biggest sleeper, offense: Wide receiver Kamar Aiken. After being cut by three teams, Aiken has impressed the Ravens with his strong hands, which has helped him go from a long shot to someone who is inching closer to a roster spot.

Biggest sleeper, defense: Cornerback Tremain Jacobs. The undrafted rookie out of Texas A&M has become a favorite of the coaching staff. He isn't going to be the No. 3 corner this year, but he has the potential to develop into one in future years.

Most improved player, offense: Fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Last year, the Ravens re-signed Vonta Leach because Juszczyk wasn't ready as a rookie. Now, Juszczyk is primed for a breakthrough year as a lead blocker and a receiver.

Most improved player, defense: Linebacker Pernell McPhee. Don't be surprised if he matches his six-sack total from his 2011 rookie season because he's healthy and looks more explosive.

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