The Baltimore Ravens are hoping to have an easy time of righting their ship heading into their key battle on Christmas Day with the Pittsburgh Steelers after they dropped a game to the Patriots on Sunday. In order to do so, they will have to take out the Eagles, who have been struggling of late. But they will have to do so with a depleted secondary—possibly significantly so.
The Ravens have already ruled out their best cornerback, Jimmy Smith, for tomorrow after he suffered an ankle injury on Sunday in the Patriots game. More on that injury in a bit, but Baltimore may also find themselves without their slot cornerback, Jerraud Powers, as he is currently in the concussion protocol.
As with Smith’s ankle, Powers’ concussion was suffered during the Patriots game. He left that game without returning, obviously. The veteran cornerback, however, spent the entire week doing no more than limited work in practice, and, as of this writing, remains in the concussion protocol.
As should probably go without saying, if Powers is not able to graduate from the concussion protocol today, he will be unable to play tomorrow. Part of the concussion protocol requires him to demonstrate that he can go through football activities without suffering recurring concussion symptoms.
With Baltimore is forced to move on Sunday without both Smith and Powers, then, for starters, they will have to re-insert Shareece Wright into the starting lineup. Wright began the season as a starter, but his struggles led to him being demoted to the point at which he became the fourth cornerback on the depth chart.
In addition to Wright, who will be working alongside rookie starter Tavon Young, Baltimore will have to make a decision about who to use as their fifth defensive back, which could include moving starting safety Lardarius Webb into the slot.
Webb, of course, was a cornerback throughout his career until he was moved to safety to start this season, to playing the cornerback position would not be new to him. In his place could be former first-round pick Matt Elam, who has struggled to remain a contributor on defense.
As far as Smith goes, it is unclear whether or not this will be a one-week injury, and I probably don’t have to spell out why that is a big deal. But just in case I do, the Steelers are the Ravens’ next opponent, and they would benefit greatly if they had the opportunity to face that defense without one of its best defenders.
About Smith’s injury, Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said, “the other guys are getting ready to play this week, and going forward, we’ll just have to see where we’re at”. “Where we’re at” may well be a Friday injury report on December 23rd that is reading Smith as doubtful, or even out.
Considering that Powers is dealing with a concussion, it is no guarantee that he will return either, although he appears to have been making progress. Concussion recovery is a notoriously tricky and at times unpredictable thing.