In his eight seasons, Joe Flacco has never had a wide receiver reach the Pro Bowl. He's long gotten the job done with young players and veterans who are on the so-called "back nine" of their careers.
But the wide receiver corps Flacco will be throwing to Sunday in Cleveland may take the cake.
With Steve Smith Sr. (back) already ruled out, Michael Campanaro (back) on injured reserve and rookie Breshad Perriman (knee) still sidelined, Flacco's top three wide receivers will be former journeyman Kamar Aiken, former undrafted rookie Marlon Brown and sixth-round rookie Darren Waller.
He'll have one week to get on the same page with newly acquired wide receiver Chris Givens, who joined the Ravens via trade after putting up 12 catches so far in 2015.
On Monday, Flacco reacted to the loss of his targets after reading "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" to a group of children at Charles Carroll Barrister Elementary School during the Ravens' unveiling of a new school library.
"At the end of the [Steelers] game, you could tell we were losing guys. Every play, a guy was down," Flacco said.
"It's just part of the league; you've got to be able to adjust and deal with all that adversity. I think we're going to be alright, but hopefully those [injured] guys get better."
Campanaro, who was starting to look like one of the offense's top playmakers, isn't coming back. Said Flacco, "It's just one of those tough things you have to deal with."
Smith is week-to-week but won't suit up against the Browns, according to Head Coach John Harbaugh. That takes a major bite out of the Ravens' receiving game.
Smith leads the Ravens in receptions (29), receiving yards (373) and targets (47), and is tied for the team lead with two touchdown catches. He has the ninth-most receiving yards in the league and the fourth-most targets.
Smith put the Ravens offense on his back during massive games against the Raiders and Bengals, although both ended in losses.
Aiken leads the other receivers with 11 catches for 165 yards, Brown has eight grabs for 75 yards and Waller caught one pass for 17 yards. Aiken is the only wide receiver other than Smith with a touchdown reception so far this season.
"Obviously you guys can see what [Smith] does out there and what he presents for defenses," Flacco said. "Not only for himself, but I think he opens things up for other guys. It will definitely be an adjustment for us and guys are going to step up."
Baltimore mostly relied on its ground game to get the job done after Smith went down near the end of the third quarter in Pittsburgh. Flacco had mixed success with his other targets in the fourth quarter.
On a three-and-out late in the fourth quarter, Brown dropped one pass over the middle, then Waller couldn't make a play on a ball that was a little underthrown along the right sideline. However, on the next drive, Waller started it off with a 17-yard catch, then Aiken followed with a 20-yard grab.
After a run by Justin Forsett of 8 yards, the Ravens were in range for Justin Tucker's 42-yard field goal to send the game to overtime. In the extra period, Aiken caught another pass for 11 yards.
Still, the Ravens bolstered their wide receiver corps with Givens, a speedster acquired from St. Louis. Givens steps into Campanaro's roster spot, but his game is a bit different – even though both went to Wake Forest and are of smaller stature.
"I don't know too much about him, but I know he runs well," Flacco said. "We've just got to get him in there and get him learning the offense so he can help us out as quickly as possible."
Flacco hasn't had a deep-speed threat through the first four weeks with Perriman sidelined.
"I think it'll help out a lot," Flacco said before repeating that the Ravens' need to make sure he knows what he's doing.
Flacco was asked if he might recruit some of the kids he just read to for his wide receiver corps.
"They look pretty good," Flacco said with a chuckle. "There are a couple big kindergartners in there. Maybe 15 years from now."