Raiders a ‘big challenge’ for revamped secondary
Smith will likely get rematch with ‘talented’ WRs Cooper, Crabtree
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.