We hear constantly how today’s NFL is a “passing league”. Which means that there is a premium placed on being able to defend the air attack of the opposition.
Do the Ravens have enough to keep opposing teams from going to the air?
Let’s take a look at what they have:
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
2014 Depth Chart
CB: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Asa Jackson, Dominique Franks, Chykie Brown, Tramain Jacobs, Mario Norman, Deji Olatoye, Sammy Seamster
FS: Darian Stewart, Jeromy Miles, Terrence Brooks, Will Hill
SS: Matt Elam, Omar Brown, Anthony Levine, Brynden Trawick
The Ravens have a pair of starting corners in Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith that could rival anyone in the division. Webb had a solid season returning from his second ACL injury and has taken a step forward as a leader on defense. Unfortunately Webb hasn’t spent much time getting reps in training camp as he’s been forced to miss time with multiple back spasms and will be held out of at least the first two Pre-Season games. Smith is coming off his best season as a pro and was able to stay healthy and productive. However he too fell victim to legal issues this off-season as he was charged with disorderly conduct.
With the departure of Corey Graham the Nickel position appears up for grabs between several players. Vet hopeful Aaron Ross tore his Achilles which eliminates him as an option, Fourth year man Chykie Brown has some experience but had struggled early in camp, Asa Jackson has shown flashes of potential the past two seasons but has been kept off the field due to two suspensions due to substance abuse. Franks spent the last four seasons with Atlanta and while he was mostly a special teamer he does have more experience than most. That leaves the team with plenty of choices but plenty of uncertainty with it.
Last season’s top draft pick, Matt Elam spent most of his rookie season playing out of position. Now securely the starter at Strong safety he can put his heavy hitting and natural tackling instincts to better use. That leaves a gaping hole at Free Safety where the Ravens hoped to find an answer in this year’s rookie crop with Terrence Brooks from FSU. Brooks has struggled so far in getting pro ready and may take some time before he contributes to the defense. That leaves former Ram Darian Stewart as the de-facto starter. Stewart has shown an ability to help out in a variety of spots in the secondary and has started in the NFL before back in 2011.
The most intriguing and controversial option was the signing of former Giant Will Hill. Hill will miss the first six games this season due to repeat failures of the league’s substance abuse policy and the team announced his signing a day after the Rice suspension was handed down. While the timing seems curious Hill is a talented player, ranking third best according to Pro Football Focus at his position last season.
Webb and Smith have great potential to be an outstanding tandem but both have questions surrounding them. Webb’s recent back issues have me concerned as his physical style of play can take its toll. Smith should be fine on the field and should continue his steady improvement as one of the league top corners. The third spot is clearly up for grabs right now between Jackson and Franks and I’d like to get Jackson get the nod. He’s shown speed and a knack for play-making in previous pre-seasons. Now is the time to put it together. Elam is another player that should take another step forward now that he’s playing the proper position and I expect some big hits and big plays this year. I would be very surprised if Will Hill isn’t starting in Week Seven when his suspension is lifted. He has considerable skills and while Stewart may be able to hold down the job in the early going he doesn’t have nearly the upside the Hill could give you in that position.