The Ravens' challenge this year is to make sure their season doesn't go off the rails in the first month of the season while Smith serves a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
Smith often has been overlooked for a defense where the spotlight frequently shines on Terrell Suggs and Eric Weddle. But no one affects how the Ravens handle passing attacks the way Smith does, even though he never has reached the Pro Bowl in his seven-year NFL career or intercepted more than three passes in a season.
Over the past two seasons, Baltimore has limited teams to 212.6 yards passing and a 76.9 passer rating in 23 games with Smith, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In nine games without him, the Ravens have allowed teams to produce 250.4 yards passing and an 85.7 rating.
The Ravens believe "without a doubt" they are better fortified to play without Smith this time.
"I think that the toolbox is full –- it's full with our players and our depth –- and it's full with our coverages that we can go to if someone is struggling," defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale said. "I don't see that in the very near future, but we have those things we can go to with that."
Baltimore's "toolbox" is filled with more depth at cornerback than at any point during coach John Harbaugh's 11 seasons. Even without Smith, the Ravens return three corners who've all started in the NFL: Marlon Humphrey, a 2017 first-round pick; Brandon Carr, a 10-year starter in the league; and Tavon Young, who started 11 games in 2016.
But the Ravens brought in big-name free-agent cornerback Bashaud Breeland a month ago, an indication that the team might not be set for life without Smith in September. Baltimore faces the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens must figure out a way to slow down top targets such as A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas and Antonio Brown.
The biggest concern is Brown, who has historically struggled against Smith. In seven regular-season meetings with Smith, Baltimore has held Brown to 60.1 yards receiving per game and one touchdown. In three games when Smith was sidelined, Brown averaged 151 yards receiving against the Ravens and scored two touchdowns.
"I'm very confident about the guys that we're going to put out there and play, and I'm looking forward to it," Harbaugh said. "It can't get here soon enough, as far as I'm concerned. So, we'll take care of [our business and] get as much done as we can between now and then, be as good as we can be."