OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The injury to cornerback Jimmy Smith is problematic to the Ravens heading into the regular-season opener against Las Vegas and tight end Darren Waller.
Smith is still dealing with an ankle injury and his status is uncertain. He is expected to help cover tight ends and Waller, a former Ravens player, has established himself as one of the best in the league.
The injury to Smith was supposed to be short-term but now it's uncertain when he will return.
"It turned out to be a little more serious than we initially thought," Ravens coach John Harbaugh. "He’ll be back, if not next week, [then] very early in the season. It just didn’t come around as quickly as I think they thought it was going to in terms of his ankle. But it’s an ankle sprain, just a little slower recovery than they anticipated.”
Smith has the size (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) and the physicality to match up with opposing tight ends. With Smith in the lineup, the Ravens can keep fellow cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters on the outside.
Waller creates matchup problems for most opponents
In 2016, the Ravens moved Darren Waller from wide receiver to tight end. However, he had a tumultuous time in Baltimore and was suspended twice for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
On November 26, 2018, Waller was signed by the Raiders off the Ravens' practice squad and he has thrived with that organization.
Last season, Waller set Raiders single-season receptions record with 107. He also finished with 1,196 yards receiving with nine touchdowns.
If Smith is out, the Ravens could have a linebacker cover Waller but that would not be a good matchup because he can stretch the field.
As a result, Baltimore defensive coordinator Don Martindale will have to be creative in creating a plan to contain Waller with a defensive back.
The key for the Ravens is to keep the pressure on quarterback Derek Carr to prevent him from making plays to Waller. Carr was effective last season, throwing for 4,103 yards with 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions (101.4 rating).
Carr has gone 2-1 against the Ravens with 744 yards passing with eight touchdowns and one interception.