I think the Pittsburgh Steelers probably know a thing or two about dealing with players who are frequently injured, but when it comes to the AFC North, I think the Baltimore Ravens have had the biggest injury problems in the division.
Take cornerback Jimmy Smith, who was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2011. While he has at times been a very good player for them over the course of his seven seasons, he has only played a full season twice during that stretch, and has missed at least four games in the other five seasons.
In all, Smith has missed 26 games, which works out to playing about 12 games per season. He is recovering at the moment from a torn Achilles that he suffered against the Detroit Lions in Week 13 last season. He played 12 games in 2017, recording three interceptions with nine passes defensed, 28 tackles, and one touchdown scored.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh spoke recently at the Annual League Meeting about a number of topics, and that included his injured starter. “He seems to be doing well”, he said, adding that he may even be ahead of schedule in his rehab process. “I’m kind of counting on him for the season, to start the season and maybe to start camp”.
Smith doesn’t figure to be the only cornerback the Ravens expect to get back for the start of next season, however, after Tavon Young missed all of last season with a torn ACL. A 2016 fourth-round draft pick, Young worked his way into the slot, and even started on the boundary by the end of the year.
Brandon Carr was picked up in free agency a year ago and remains in the starting lineup. If Smith is not ready to start the season for one reason or another, then last year’s first-round draft pick, Marlon Humphrey, figures to get the opportunity to start there, as he did at the end of last season.
Otherwise, he and Young will compete for roles elsewhere in the secondary along with Maurice Canady. Baltimore does have some depth at the cornerback position with the additions of Carr and Humphrey in free agency and the draft a year ago and with the development of young players such as Young and Canady.
Still, Smith is regarded as the team’s top cornerback when he is healthy, and they are eager to get him back on the field and producing for them.
“We have the best training staff in the NFL to get him back. I went through it twice and they got me back”, Terrell Suggs said of his own experience recovering from actually two different Achilles tears in his career. “Jimmy will be back next year, full-fledged, ready to go and he’ll still come back and be one of the best corners in the league”.