Raiders a ‘big chal­lenge’ for re­vamped se­condary

Smith will likely get re­match with ‘tal­ented’ WRs Cooper, Crab­tree

Baltimore Sun - - NFL & RAVENS - By Jeff Zre­biec jeff.zre­biec@balt­ twit­­fzre­biec­sun Bal­ti­more Sun re­porter Ed­ward Lee con­trib­uted to this ar­ti­cle.

The play was one of the low points of Ravens cor­ner­back Jimmy Smith’s dis­ap­point­ing 2015 sea­son.

On just the sixth play from scrim­mage in a 37-33 loss to the Oak­land Raiders in Week 2 last Septem­ber, wide re­ceiver Amari Cooper ran past Smith down the left side­line and Derek Carr hit the rookie in stride for a 68-yard touch­down. The catch was part of a seven-re­cep­tion, 109yard af­ter­noon for Cooper, who re­peat­edly found space in the se­condary.

Smith will likely get a re­match with Cooper when the Raiders visit the Ravens on Sun­day at 1 p.m. at M&T Bank Sta­dium.

“Last year’s game was last year’s game. Ob­vi­ously, you get a lit­tle bit of a feel for how they run their routes, how they play the game. But last year was last year,” said Smith, who strug­gled most of last sea­son try­ing to come back from foot surgery.

Last week, the Ravens faced the Jack­sonville Jaguars’ pro­lific young re­ceiv­ing duo of Allen Robin­son and Allen Hurns. This week, their task is lim­it­ing the dam­age of Cooper and vet­eran Michael Crab­tree. In last year’s game, the two com­bined for 16 catches for 220 yards and two touch­downs.

“Amari Cooper, the first day he stepped on the field in the Na­tional Foot­ball League, was a star. He’s a threat to take it to the house, whether they throw it over you or they throw it to him right away on a screen and he takes it,” Ravens coach John Har­baugh said. “He can run ev­ery route. Michael Crab­tree, I have a lot of re­spect for Michael, be­cause he played for my brother. I got to know him a lit­tle bit that way. He’s back, and he’s a premier re­ceiver, also.”

Cooper and Crab­tree are Carr’s clear go-to guys and pri­mary rea­sons for Oak­land en­ter­ing the game with the league’s sec­ond-ranked of­fense.

Cooper, the fourth over­all pick in the 2014 draft, has 15 catches for 270 yards this fall af­ter a rookie sea­son in which he had 72 re­cep­tions for 1,070 yards and six touch­downs, and made the Pro Bowl. Crab­tree has a team­lead­ing 19 re­cep­tions for 220 yards and one score.

The Raiders rep­re­sent the big­gest chal­lenge yet for the Ravens’ re­vamped se­condary and a de­fense that sur­ren­dered 448 yards to Oak­land last sea­son.

“It’s huge,” Smith said. “They are re­ally tal­ented re­ceivers, a lot of speed. Crab­tree goes up and makes a lot of plays. It’s go­ing to be a big chal­lenge for our se­condary.” Har­baugh: Ron­nie Stan­ley has a chance: De­spite three con­sec­u­tive ab­sences from prac­tice for start­ing left tackle Ron­nie Stan­ley, Har­baugh did not rule out the rookie from play­ing against the Raiders.

Stan­ley, the sixth over­all pick in the 2016 draft who has started ev­ery game thus far, is listed as doubt­ful for Sun­day be­cause of a foot in­jury. He wore a boot Wed­nes­day but ditched the pro­tec­tive gear the next day.

Asked af­ter Fri­day’s prac­tice whether Stan­ley’s in­jury is a longterm con­cern, Har­baugh replied: “I don’t see it that way from what I’ve been told. I still think he has a chance for Sun­day. You’ll see the [in­jury] re­port com­ing out later, but we’re not go­ing to rule him out.”

Rookie left guard Alex Lewis, a fourth-round pick, did not prac­tice Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day be­cause of a con­cus­sion, but he par­tic­i­pated on a limited ba­sis Fri­day and is ques­tion­able.

“He looked re­ally good in a walk­through,” Har­baugh said of Lewis. “But it’s a con­cus­sion. There’s re­ally no phys­i­cal is­sue with Alex past the con­cus­sion pro­to­col.” Hester takes blame for fum­ble: Devin Hester Sr. chas­tised him­self for fum­bling a fair catch on a punt re­turn Sun­day that was re­cov­ered by the Jaguars and turned into a 49-yard field goal by kicker Ja­son My­ers for a 17-16 lead in the fourth quar­ter.

Kicker Justin Tucker, the AFC Spe­cial Teams Player of the Month, got the Ravens on the right side of the ledger with a 54-yard field goal for the 19-17 win, but Hester — who is ques­tion­able against Oak­land be­cause of a thigh ail­ment — said he should not have put the Ravens in that sit­u­a­tion.

“It’s one of those mi­nor things where I could have easily pre­vented that sit­u­a­tion,” Hester said of the 21st lost fum­ble of his ca­reer. End zone: Ravens wide re­ceiver Steve Smith Sr. was fined $9,115 by the NFL for un­nec­es­sary rough­ness Sun­day. Nei­ther Smith nor Jack­sonville cor­ner­back Jalen Ram­sey was fined for in­volve­ment in a scuf­fle that earned both un­sports­man­like-con­duct penal­ties in the fourth quar­ter. … Out­side line­backer Elvis Dumervil prac­ticed fully for the third con­sec­u­tive day, and al­though he is ques­tion­able, Har­baugh is op­ti­mistic Dumervil will make his 2016 de­but Sun­day. “Pleased and look­ing for­ward to see­ing how he does,” Har­baugh said. “It will be his first ac­tion — if he plays.” … In ad­di­tion to Dumervil, wide re­ceiver Ka­mar Aiken (knee), rookie run­ning back Ken­neth Dixon (strained MCL in left knee), de­fen­sive tackle Timmy Jerni­gan (knee) and guard John Urschel (shoul­der) were full par­tic­i­pants. All but Dixon are ques­tion­able. Dixon is listed as doubt­ful, as is cor­ner­back Shel­don Price (thigh), who did not prac­tice for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive day. … The Raiders ruled out start­ing right tackle Mene­lik Watson (calf ), who did not prac­tice this week. An­other starter, cen­ter Rod­ney Hud­son (knee), was upgraded from limited to full par­tic­i­pa­tion Fri­day and is ques­tion­able.

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