The word "shorthanded" describes the Ravens' offensive line these days.
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley and guard/tackle James Hurst both missed Thursday's practice. Right guard Marshal Yanda practiced Thursday, but he has not played the entire preseason following offseason shoulder surgery.
The injuries to Stanley and Hurst are "minor" and not a concern beyond this week, according to Head Coach John Harbaugh. Both injured linemen are expected to be ready for Week 1.
However, the Ravens will start Saturday night's preseason game against the Miami Dolphins with an offensive line that could feature three backups, including rookies at each tackle – Greg Senat at left tackle and Orlando Brown at right tackle.
Will the offensive line situation reduce how much Ravens starting quarterback Joe Flacco plays Saturday night? The Ravens may decide to limit Flacco's snaps considering the Dolphins have two premier pass-rushing defensive ends in Cameron Wake (10 ½ sacks last season) and Robert Quinn (8 ½ sacks last season).
Following Thursday's practice, Harbaugh was asked about his plans for Flacco's playing time Saturday night. The next-to-last preseason game is usually the game where starters see the most playing time.
Harbaugh did not say how long Flacco would play, but he believes the Ravens' shorthanded offensive line can hold its own.
"It's just really going to depend on how much Joe needs," Harbaugh said. "I'm confident in the guys we put out there that they'll protect Joe, and I'm confident that we can run schemes that will protect him. They have two really good pass-rushing ends, obviously, and we have to make sure that we keep those guys under control, no matter who's the quarterback. We'll just play Joe as much as we think he needs to get ready for the regular season."
Flacco has already looked regular-season ready during training camp and the preseason. If he does not play extensively Saturday night, it will not be a surprise.
Harbaugh Moving Forward After Jimmy Smith Suspension
Harbaugh made his first comments about cornerback Jimmy Smith's four-game suspension following practice.
Harbaugh confirmed that he plans to play Smith during the final two preseason games, and Smith was on the practice field both Wednesday and Thursday this week. Harbaugh added that his focus remained on winning games, regardless of whether Smith was available or not.
"The other guys will step up and get the job done," Harbaugh said. "That's our plan.
"As far as Jimmy goes, he has two more weeks to get out here and practice and play and be the best football player he can be for when he does come back."
Carr 'Devastated' By Smith Suspension, But Ravens Secondary Remains Determined
Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr is one of the players most impacted by Smith's suspension. Carr and Marlon Humphrey are expected to be the starting outside corners in Smith's absence, and Carr's streak of starting every game in his career should continue.
Entering his 11th season, Carr has started 160 straight games, the NFL's longest streak for a defensive player. However, Carr was thinking about Smith on Thursday more than he was the consecutive games streak.
"Devastating news, heartbreaking, but we understand, I understand the situation, the matter is serious, with the climate in the world today and what's going on," Carr said.
Smith's suspension created a new challenge for the Ravens' secondary. The Ravens will see two of the NFL's top receivers during the first four weeks – A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals (Week 2), and Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Week 4).
However, Carr believes Humphrey is ready to assume a starting role in only his second season.
"I can tell he's more comfortable on the field," Carr said of Humphrey. "He's confident. He's come into his own. His personality both on and off the field … he's a special guy. I'm looking forward to seeing him making plays. He has a ton of confidence in his ability and what he can do out there on the field. I see a big attitude change for him this year, because he knows he can go out there and play with the best of them. He had some success last year. We look for him to build on it this year."
Without Smith, the play of Carr and Humphrey, and their depth at cornerback that includes Tavon Young and Maurice Canady, becomes even more crucial for the Ravens. Getting off to a strong start is a priority for the Ravens, especially with a couple of AFC North rivals in the first quarter of the season.