When the Baltimore Ravens drafted Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, they thought they had that big, fast defensive back that would remind many fans of former All-Pro Chris McAlister. Even through the pre-season, it appeared that the rookie had earned a starting position by virtue of his solid play. Despite his obvious lack of experience, his physical talents of size and speed allowed him to keep up with the veteran wide receivers the team knew he'd be covering.
Unfortunately, he injured his ankle on his first play of his NFL career, running down the field on Special Teams, and has not played since then. A high ankle sprain is a nagging injury that can only be healed over time through rest and rehab. The thought was that Smith would miss the first few games and then most likely return right after the Bye week when the Ravens host the Houston Texans and their All-Pro WR Andre Johnson.
At least Johnson won't be there due to his recent knee injury, but now it appears that neither will Jimmy smith. At yesterday's press conference, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh had this to say about the possibility of Smith playing against the Texans:
"He's not there yet, that's for sure."
(Click on the 'Jump' to read more about the status of the Ravens cornerbacks)
With the status of Smith being up in the air, the Ravens went out and signed former Dallas Cowboys CB Brian McCann, who actually had a stint with the Ravens in the past but did not stick with the team and returned to the Cowboys. McCann is a veteran corner who has pro experience and also can help out in the return game, as WR and kick returner David Reed is still out with his shoulder injury. The addition of McCann is further proof that the team is not quite comfortable with rookie CB Chykie Brown being one of the active reserves.
Furthermore, veteran CB Chris Carr is not fully recovered from his variety of injuries that include his thigh and hamstring. Prior to the season, the team thought their starting corners could have easily been Carr and Domonique Foxworth. Carr remains sidelined and Foxworth was placed in Injured Reserve for the second time in two years after it became obvious he had not recovered from his ACL surgery last season.
At the same time, the Ravens have been pleasantly surprised with the performance from Cary Williams, who has played well when thrust into a starting position opposite Lardarius Webb. Speaking of Webb, while he was always willing to throw his body around to stop the run game, he was targeted and picked on by opposing quarterbacks and repeatedly burned in the passing game. However, this year, Webb has greatly improved his coverage and now is tied with Ed Reed for the team lead with two interceptions, including the back-breaking 73-yard TD return in the Ravens 34-17 victory over the New York Jets in the team's last game before their Bye.
The Ravens appear able to play with these uncertainties in their secondary, mostly because their pass rush has significantly improved. Without pressure on the opposing QB, the continuing issues will be exposed by the better quarterbacks, starting with the Texans Matt Schaub, who threw for over 400 yards last week in Houston's 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders. However, regardless of the Ravens success defending the pass, the sooner they get healthier in their secondary with options of whom they want to start, the better for their chances of retaining their lead in the AFC North.