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Injuries Taking Toll On Hard-Hit Secondary


The injuries are mounting in the defensive backfield. 

If the Ravens were to play a game today, they would likely be without three of their top cornerbacks and have to play an undrafted rookie in the starting lineup.

The grind of training camp and the preseason has taken a toll on the defense, but the collective sense from the team's locker room after Saturday's victory over the Dallas Cowboys was to embrace a long-held football philosophy.  

"It's next man up," cornerback Chykie Brown said. "We need somebody else to step up and take over."

The latest defender to get bitten by the injury bug is cornerback Jimmy Smith, who left Saturday's game with a chest bruise. The injury is not considered serious and X-rays on Smith's chest were negative, but the injury was a scary moment for the fourth-year cornerback.

The Ravens have already been without veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb throughout the preseason because of a back injury he suffered early in training camp. Asa Jackson was coming on strong during camp and vying for the third cornerback spot, but he suffered a minor ankle injury last week and didn't play against Dallas. The Ravens also lost veteran free-agent signing Aaron Ross to a season-ending Achilles tear at the start of training camp when he was running his conditioning test.

Cornerback was a thin position of depth coming into the season, and the Ravens have already had four players get hurt.

"We can't be doubting ourselves. We trust the next guy in line like he's a starter," Brown said. "We expect him to go out there and make plays like he's a starter. That's pretty much it."

With Webb, Smith and Jackson all sidelined, the Ravens top two cornerbacks Saturday were Brown and former Falcon Dominique Franks. The Cowboys scored a touchdown soon after Smith's injury, as quarterback Tony Romo hit wide receiver Dez Bryant for a touchdown over Franks.

The only other cornerbacks on the roster are former Arena League defender Marrio Norman undrafted rookies Tramain Jacobs, Deji Olatoye and Sammy Seamster. Rookie safety Terrence Brooks, a third-round pick, also has the ability to play the nickel role.

The silver lining with the recent string of injuries is that the Ravens are getting young players plenty of experience to evaluate them. 

"Those guys who are stepping in and playing are getting some valuable reps and some valuable learning experience," veteran defender Chris Canty said.

To help fill the void, a potential option is for General Manager Ozzie Newsome to make a late move to bring in another veteran via free agency or trade, which he has done in the past. Bryant McKinnie, Josh Wilson and Bernard Pollard are three examples of late preseason signings that helped boost the Ravens in the past.

In the meantime, the Ravens will stick with what they already have on the roster, work to get their starters healthy, and stay committed to the philosophy they have embraced.

 "It is always next man up with this football team," Canty said. "When somebody goes down, we have full confidence that the next guy can step in and play at a high level. Guys that are a little banged up, I hope that we get them back soon."

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