The Ravens had already lost starting tight end Dennis Pitta for the rest of the season with a hip injury and starting left tackle Eugene Monroe for about a month after he had knee surgery. Now, they know that they'll have to overcome the absence of two defensive starters for an extended period.
A day after a 20-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium dropped his team to 3-2, Ravens coach John Harbaugh announced that starting defensive end Chris Canty had surgery to clean out an infection in his wrist and starting cornerback Asa Jackson is in a walking boot because of a "very severely" sprained toe.
Jackson, who had started the past four games opposite the team's top cornerback, Jimmy Smith, will be out a "number of weeks," Harbaugh said. His injury highlights the team's already thin cornerback depth and puts even more pressure on Lardarius Webb, who was targeted frequently by the Colts in his first extended action of the season.
Harbaugh said that Jackson, who limped off the field in Sunday's second half, will likely be put on the injured reserve list with a designation to return. That means Jackson would miss at least eight weeks, delaying his return until December.
"That's where we're at with that right now," said Harbaugh, whose team is on the road again Sunday to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-4). "We're looking at our [cornerback] options."
As for Canty, who started 13 of 16 games last season and the Ravens' first four games this year, he was sidelined Sunday for what was listed as an illness on the injury report. Harbaugh revealed Monday that Canty spent the weekend in the hospital after having surgery to clean out the infection.
"Chris Canty had an infection in his wrist through his thumb that swelled up on him last week," Harbaugh said. "They didn't know what it was. They took about three days, thought it might be gout, things like that. It turned out to be an infection. We found out on Friday. He had to have surgery. … He's going to be a couple of weeks for that. That takes a while."
With Canty and rookie Timmy Jernigan (knee) sidelined against the Colts, the Ravens relied on several players to fill the void. DeAngelo Tyson played 38 snaps and Pernell McPhee played 34. Recent waiver-wire acquisitions Lawrence Guy and Christo Bilukidi also pitched in with 22 and 10 snaps respectively.
"We've got numbers on the defensive line right now," Harbaugh said. "We had a couple good pickups it looks like. Both of those two guys, Bilukidi and Guy, played well. They kind of fit our system really well. They're physical guys, they play hard and use their hands, they get off blocks. And with [defensive line coach] Clarence Brooks teaching them, they're only going to get better. That's very promising. I think we're going to be OK up front. I know we are."
The Ravens previously lost young defensive linemen Brent Urban and Kapron Lewis-Moore to season-ending injuries in training camp.
The situation is far more severe at the cornerback position, where the Ravens had already been forced to use safeties Matt Elam and Terrence Brooks in nickel back roles to compensate for the team's lack of depth.
With Jackson out, that leaves Smith, Webb and Chykie Brown as the Ravens' active cornerbacks. Harbaugh did acknowledge that the team was trying to sign a free-agent corner with one option being Derek Cox, who has already had two stints with the team.
But at the very least, Webb is expected to return to his role as a starter opposite Smith. Webb missed just about all of training camp because of a back injury and was inactive for three of the first four games. He did play play three snaps against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 21.
Webb played 44 snaps against the Colts and was challenged throughout the game by Andrew Luck and a talented group of wide receivers. According to Pro Football Focus, Luck threw at Webb 10 times, resulting in seven catches for 91 yards and six first downs.
Still, Harbaugh said that he was pleased with the progress the veteran cornerback has made, calling Webb's first extensive action "very encouraging."
"We've been pushing it hard," Harbaugh said. "We talked about it last week. I didn't know exactly how it was going to go. He looked better in practice and went out there and played pretty darn well. So it's only going to get better. He's only going to improve physically. He knows how to play. He's not there, he's not 100 percent but he's on his way. I was happy with it."
Webb acknowledged after the game that he was rusty.
"I just got to … keep getting better," he said. "He's Andrew Luck; we came in respecting him. He's a great quarterback. Everybody knew that. We just got to keep fighting."
Though the Ravens held the Colts, the NFL's highest-ranked scoring offense, to 14 points below their season average, Luck still passed for 312 yards and a touchdown and was sacked only once.
The Ravens are allowing 269 passing yards per game. Only four teams are surrendering more. They also have only three interceptions — none by their secondary — and five sacks. Only the Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams have a fewer number of sacks.
The absence of Canty and Jackson will only add to the Ravens' challenge of trying to get pressure and force turnovers.