When building the Ravens defense, Ozzie Newsome certainly didn’t establish equivalent contingency plans for losing the team’s best cornerback and star middle linebacker six games into the season.
So moving forward, starting Sunday at the 5-1 Houston Texans, the Ravens will be looking to a host of players to take over for the unit’s key losses.
At linebacker, Dannell Ellerbe will likely be the primary option to replace Lewis. But the team also can use Albert McClellan and Jameel McClain in different roles while giving Sergio Kindle and Brendon Ayanbadejo more responsibility.
Coach John Harbaugh expressed confidence in the potential replacements.
“I feel great about our guys’ chances to fill in,” he told reporters. “That’s something that we’ve been able to do in the past. That’s what you have to be able to do. Obviously, that’s going to define what we are able to accomplish this year. So that’s something that we are going to need to do - from a leadership standpoint and from a playing standpoint. Our chances of doing it? I don’t put odds on it. That’s just something that we are going to have to get done.”
Speaking specifically about Smith and Ellerbe, the two players expected to see their playing time increase the most, Harbaugh said, “They are very good football players. I feel very strongly about both of those two players - Jimmy and Dannell. They’ll do well. I’m very confident in those guys.”
This isn’t the first time the Ravens have had to go on without Lewis, as they did so just last season when he missed four games with a toe injury.
Perhaps giving the team a little emotional boost is that Baltimore went 4-0 without Lewis in 2011.
“(That’s) probably something that would give some guys some confidence,” Harbaugh told reporters. “Some guys probably feel good about that. The guys who are going to be playing are the same guys that stepped in and played last year, to a large extent. Those guys have played a lot of football. We have a lot of confidence in those guys. You are talking about Jameel, Dannell, of course Albert if he slides inside and plays (there) a little bit. We’ll just have to see how that goes. So we feel good about that.”
Update: The Ravens just made the first roster move to fill the openings created by Webb and Lewis.
Baltimore placed Webb on injured reserve and promoted undrafted rookie running back Bobby Rainey from the practice squad to the active roster.
Rainey was a preseason standout who initially made the Ravens’ season-opening roster. But he was cut the night of the first game to add Anthony Allen for special teams reasons.
Rainey ran for times for 55 yards while adding a team-high 14 catches for 163 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the Ravens’ four preseason games.