Sunday, November 27 | 1:00 pm EST
This game could get ugly.
Ugly in the sense if the Ravens fall behind the Bengals early, it will be a desperate uphill fight. Who on the Ravens offensive front can stop Geno Atkins?
I know, it’s not as simple as that, because the Bengals will need a lot more than a disruptive pass rush to beat the Ravens.
The Bengals (3-6-1) are really banged up.
WR and Ravens Killer A.J. Green isn’t expected to play because of a hamstring tear, but four other starters also didn’t practice Wednesday.
Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and wide receiver Brandon LaFell are dealing with knee injuries and didn’t practice. Safety Shawn Williams has a hamstring issue and left tackle Andrew Whitworth got the day off.
With Green likely out, even more of a burden falls on LaFell, who has 33 catches for 419 yards and four touchdowns this season. Rookie receiver Tyler Boyd will step into a starting role.
Quarterback Andy Dalton (right shoulder) was limited in practice, as well as starting guard Clint Boling (shoulder), long snapper Clark Harris (groin) and reserve cornerback Josh Shaw (hip).
But the Ravens are not exactly coasting into this game without health issues.
CB Jimmy Smith did not practice Wednesday as he tries to get healthy enough to face the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium. The Ravens will monitor Smith’s sore back throughout the week to see if it improves.
“Jimmy is still working on his back issue,” HC John Harbaugh said. “Hopefully he’ll be out there tomorrow. We’ll see.” Smith sat out Sunday’s 27-17 loss against the Dallas Cowboys after practicing just once, in a limited capacity last Friday. Cowboys wide receiver then Dez Bryant proceeded to have a big game with two touchdowns and 80 yards on Sunday.
That group of struggling cornerbacks could spell possible disaster for the Ravens’ defense if Andy Dalton is not pressured enough and gets hot.
At least the Ravens’ formerly disgraced tight end Nick Boyle is back on the field following a suspension and Crockett Gillmore (thigh) practiced Wednesday for the first time in three weeks. He was a limited participant. Gillmore hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 23 against the New York Jets. Either tight end would help the Ravens with blocking, as neither Dennis Pitta nor Darren Waller are particularly strong in that area. Pitta said their absence hasn’t limited what the offense has been able to do, however.
Baltimore’s pass rush could get a boost this weekend as OLB ElvisDumervil (foot) is getting closer to a return. The veteran outside linebacker practiced fully Wednesday after being limited on Friday last week. He was a full participant last Wednesday and Thursday. The effects of Dumervil’s offseason foot procedure took longer than expected to bounce back from. He missed the first three weeks of the season, then came back on Oct. 2 for the first of two games. But when he didn’t have the same explosion and was still dealing with pain, he and the Ravens shut it down for the past five games.
Last week, Dumervil said he is feeling stronger than he did when he made his first return.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has been sacked the third-most times among NFL quarterbacks this year (29). Right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi has particularly struggled. Dumervil had a sack/strip on Dalton last season at M&T Bank Stadium, which linebacker C.J. Mosley returned for a touchdown.
Ravens Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda (right shoulder) did not practice Wednesday, but, barring a setback, is still expected to suit up. He practiced fully throughout last week, but that was also when he was trying to get adjusted to playing left guard for the first time since high school. After making a smooth transition, he’ll likely get time off from practice the rest of the season to give his shoulder a rest.
Two defensive linemen popped up on the injury report as Brandon Williams (back/hand) sat out completely and Timmy Jernigan (shoulder) was limited. Neither has missed a game this season and there have been no reports of any serious injury.
Harbaugh told reporters that Yanda and Williams simply had a day off.
Running back Lorenzo Taliaferro (thigh) didn’t practice Wednesday. He also sat out last week, but Harbaugh said Taliaferro’s injury isn’t too serious and he had a chance to take the field. Rookie guard Alex Lewis (ankle) is still out. He is expected to miss the next five weeks.
As the Ravens shift their focus ahead to Sunday’s matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals, the question is whether Baltimore can withstand cornerback Jimmy Smith’s absence if his back injury lingers. “Whether Jimmy is in there or not we have to step our game up, myself included, to get off the field,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We’re a confident group.”
Confidence is a concept which works both ways. If Jimmy Smith can’t play, I’m sure Andy Dalton is also looking at the Ravens’ defensive backfield personnel with his own degree of confidence as well.