The Ravens may be getting back a key player to matchup against Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller of the Las Vegas Raiders.
Jimmy Smith returned to the practice field Wednesday for the first time since suffering a sprained ankle on Aug. 6. He's been sidelined for just more than a month.
It remains to be seen what Smith's status will be for Monday night's season opener. However, as a tall, physical corner with a long wingspan and 10 years of NFL experience, Smith can be used by the Ravens for specific matchups, including against the league's best tight ends.
Waller certainly fits that description, having caught 197 passes for 2,314 yards and 12 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Waller began his career with the Ravens (2015-18), so he's a player Smith is very familiar with.
Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale will likely throw a variety of looks at Waller, but having Smith available as an option would be a plus. The Ravens will see another elite tight end Week 2 in their home opener when Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs visit M&T Bank Stadium.
Le'Veon Bell, Trenton Cannon Take the Field for First Practice
The Ravens have led the NFL in rushing yards the past two seasons. They set the record for single-season rushing yards (3,296) in 2019, breaking the previous mark (3,165) that had stood for 41 years.
Running the football successfully is what the Ravens do. That philosophy won't change, but season-ending injuries to J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill have changed the look of the running back room.
Wednesday was the first day of practice for Trenton Cannon, who was signed to the 53-man roster this week, and Le'Veon Bell, the former Pittsburgh Steelers star who was added to the practice squad.
Baltimore still expects to run with success, regardless of how Bell's role evolves. Gus Edwards has stepped into the lead role for Dobbins, Ty'Son Williams made the team with an excellent showing in training camp and Lamar Jackson is the most dynamic running quarterback in league history. Center Bradley Bozeman said it's up to the offensive line to provide running lanes, regardless of who carries the football.
"We're going to block for whoever is back there," Bozeman said. "We're going to try to make the biggest holes, the biggest opportunities, the biggest gains in our offense that we possibly can – regardless of who's back there running the ball. Even if you bring back Marshal [Yanda] and get him at running back; he's small enough now. No matter who's back there, we're going to do our best to make sure they have a great opportunity."
Tight end Mark Andrews shares Bozeman's confidence in the running attack.
"I am very, very confident in our running back room [with] the guys we have and our O-line being able to block it up front," Andrews said. "I know those guys are going to ball out, man. I'm not worried about that running back group. We have guys around them to help – tight ends and O-line to create space and make holes."
Bozeman Offers Left Guard Advice to Tyre Phillips
The Ravens have not named a starting left guard, with Head Coach John Harbaugh saying he had "a plan" for the position. Tyre Phillips is listed as the starter on the Ravens' latest depth chart, although Ben Powers and Ben Cleveland were also in the training competition for the starting job.
Bozeman started the past two seasons at left guard before moving to center, and he has given Phillips advice regularly throughout training camp and preseason.
"He's probably tired of it by now," Bozeman said with a laugh. "We sit beside each other in all our meetings, so I give him any kind of insight that I can, that I wish I would have had going into that position – whether it's staying low on certain blocks, certain hand placement, certain eye positions. I've constantly been in his ear for sure."
Bozeman likes what he's seen from Phillips in his second year. He made starts at both right guard and right tackle as a rookie and has shown versatility for a young player.
"Tyre has continued to grow," Bozeman said. "He's continued to be a competitor, to keep his name there, to be able to battle for that position. He's going to be a really good pro and just continue to grow. He's made a huge jump from last year to this year, so I'm excited to see what he can do."
Loud Crowd Will Pose Challenge for Offense
Monday night will be the first regular-season game with fans in attendance at Allegiant Stadium, and a raucous atmosphere is expected. That's going to present a challenge for the offense to communicate effectively and avoid pre-snap penalties.
It will be Bozeman's regular-season debut as the starting center, in an atmosphere that will test his communication with Jackson and his ability to snap the ball accurately. The Ravens have pumped loud music into recent practices in anticipation of what they will face.
"It's going to be rocking in there," Bozeman said. "It's going to be loud, we already know that. We've been working all week – the last two weeks on silent cadence and making sure that we're good on that. We've been pumping in crowd noise out here; it's been loud as crap. We're just going to continue to prep and prepare for it."