"We're much better able to handle the injury to Jimmy ... than we have been in the past," Harbaugh said at his news conference Dec. 4, the day after the Ravens (7-5) rolled over the Lions, 44-20, for their third straight win.
Smith was going to be sidelined regardless; the team announced Dec. 4 that Smith has been suspended for four games by the NFL for a violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. He can serve the suspension while on injured reserve, though he will not be paid during the suspension.
Harbaugh said after the Lions game that Smith has been playing "at an All-Pro level" this season. In 12 games, Smith had 28 tackles and three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. He also returned a fumble for a touchdown at Oakland.
With Smith sidelined, rookie first-round pick Marlon Humphrey is expected to take over a starting role opposite veteran Brandon Carr, and Maurice Canady could increasingly be used on the outside as opposed to the slot corner position he has played since coming off injured reserve.
Canady had a career-high five tackles against the Lions, and it was Canady who hammered Lions quarterback Jake Rudock on the pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by safety Eric Weddle.
"He'll be in the rotation," Harbaugh said. "He plays inside and outside. He also plays safety. Maurice is a versatile guy. He's played really well."
Canady, a sixth-round draft pick last year, was placed on injured reserve after just four games as a rookie, and then hurt his knee this summer and was placed on injured reserve again. But the Ravens have high hopes for Canady, so he was kept on the original 53-man roster despite his injury, which made him eligible to return from IR.
Other young defensive backs, such as undrafted rookie Jaylen Hill and rookie sixth-round pick Chuck Clark, could be called on as well, and the Ravens still have veteran Lardarius Webb. Harbaugh confirmed cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a three-year veteran who was signed to the Ravens' practice squad Oct. 3, will be promoted to the 53-man roster to take Smith's spot.
Jean-Baptiste was drafted in the second round in 2014 by the New Orleans Saints, but he has since bounced around to four other organizations before being signed by the Ravens.
For the Ravens, playing without Smith has become all too familiar. The former first-round pick has played all 16 games just twice in his eight-year career. In years past, the Ravens’ lack of secondary depth has been exposed in Smith's absence.
Last season against the New York Giants, Smith left the game at halftime with a concussion, and after halftime, Odell Beckham Jr. torched the Ravens for six catches, 211 yards and two touchdowns in a Giants win. Smith missed the final three games last season, including the Christmas day game when the Pittsburgh Steelers scored 21 fourth-quarter points to beat the Ravens and knock them from playoff contention.
Drafting Humphrey and signing Carr were steps designed to prevent that from happening again.
"Our secondary is the strength of our team," Weddle said after the Lions game. "So, we’re not going to sit back and be sorry for ourselves. ... Will the guys be as good as Jimmy? No. But we’ll step up and play well in his absence.”
HARBAUGH PLEASED WITH OFFENSIVE BREAKOUT: The Ravens’ maligned offense put together their most complete performance of the season against the Lions, with quarterback Joe Flacco throwing for a season-high 269 yards. The Ravens totaled 370 yards of offense, also a season-high. "We knew we could do it ... The good news is we did it when we had to, which was in this game," Harbaugh said. "The Lions were making a run, and our offense needed to step up and they did, and I'm really proud of them for that."
RICARD A 'NEW-FOUND WEAPON': Undrafted rookie Patrick Ricard, who has essentially been converted from defensive line to fullback, scored his first career touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Flacco against the Lions, and Harbaugh said more could be coming. " There was no doubt in our minds that he would catch it if we threw it to him," Harbaugh said. "That play's been in the whole season. We have other plays in for him, too ... so stay tuned. He's got good hands. He's really a pretty darned good athlete. He's a weapon. New-found weapon."
DEFENSE RESPONDS TO SUGGS: Harbaugh said he was not surprised veteran Terrell Suggs rallied the defense when things got shaky. After the Lions cut the Ravens’ 20-point lead to 27-20 in the fourth quarter, Suggs delivered a feisty pep talk to the defense on the sideline. "He's a leader, and they listen to him," Harbaugh said. "At some point in time you got to find a way to ... corral things up a little bit. ... Sometimes you got to find a way to break through and get control of the situation, and nobody better on our team to do it than Terrell Suggs, and that's why he's such a good leader."