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Health of top corners remains a hot-button issue for Ravens

The Baltimore Sun

In less than two weeks, the Ravens' secondary will be tasked with covering the Cincinnati Bengals' multidimensional receiving corps, headlined by Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green.

The Ravens are crossing their fingers that their top cornerbacks will be healthy enough to cover Green and wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu.

Lardarius Webb hasn't practiced since July 25, when he first hurt his lower back. The Ravens are hopeful that he'll begin practicing by the end of this week, as he's made significant progress in his rehabilitation. Webb had offseason sports hernia surgery and injured his lower back during the second day of training camp.

Jimmy Smith's injury is more of a concern at this point. Smith suffered a chest bruise that involved his lungs during the Ravens' second preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. Smith fell awkwardly and immediately began coughing up blood and continued to do so after the game.

He was able to do some running this week and is starting to feel better, but is still dealing with effects of the injury.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he anticipated Webb and Smith would this week or early next week.

On Tuesday, third cornerback Asa Jackson did some agility work on the field with head trainer Mark Smith. The drills involved lateral movement exercises to try to strengthen his sprained right ankle.

Jackson appeared to have solid mobiity, but has a lot of work ahead of him to get ready for the first game. He's been out since getting hurt during the Ravens' joint practice sessions against the San Francisco 49ers and will miss Thursday's preseason finale against the New Orleans Saints.

If Jackson can return in time for the Cincinnati game, it would bolster the Ravens' depth considerably.

"Asa is making progress, yes," Harbaugh said. "He looked good moving around."

In a passing league, it's pivotal that the Ravens have every cornerback ready for this game and the entire season.

"The Ravens have got to get healthy at cornerback soon," said former NFL safety Matt Bowen, who covers the league for Bleacher Report. "Once they do, they should be fine in the secondary. The thing about it is you need so many healthy cornerbacks that can play. It's all about finding guys that can play multiple roles to be able to compete against these three-wide receiver personnel packages, which have basically become the base formation on offense.

"You've got to play five defensive backs 60, 70, 80 percent of the game. So, you have to have lots of corners and guys who can play in nickel or outside. Not having enough healthy cornerbacks can put you in some tough situations where you have to use your safeties to cover a lot more."

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