Nov 24, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Baltimore Ravens strong safety Will Hill (33) celebrates with teammates free safety Darian Stewart (24) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (21) after returning an interception by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (not pictured) for a touchdown during the third quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
At one point many Ravens fans wanted to clean house in the Ravens secondary after they gave up big play after big play last season. As of late, it seems as though they want Ozzie Newsome and company to go elsewhere. Whether they draft secondary help in the first round or the second round doesn’t particularly matter, but it has to be done.
In recent history, secondary play has been the Achilles heel of the Ravens defense. An otherwise, dominant defense, the Ravens must address this need if they seriously want to make another run at a Super Bowl title. They were fourth in the NFL against the run, but were ranked 23rd against the pass, allowing 248.7 yards per game opposing teams.
The Ravens took a big step in the right direction this offseason, signing former Texans and Chiefs safety Kendrick Lewis to a three-year contract in March. Lewis has been a starter in each of his six NFL seasons. His best season to date was his last season in Houston, when he recorded 84 tackles, three forced fumbles, and two interceptions. This may not have been the blockbuster move that the fans have been hoping for, but Lewis is a proven player in this league and is huge upgrade for this defense.
Lewis will likely pair up with Will Hill as the two starting safeties. After a troubled past, Hill appears to have found himself a home in here in Charm City. He’s always had the talent to be a terrific player in the NFL, but he just couldn’t seem to stay on track. Since becoming a Raven, Hill has been nothing short of a blessing. He plays with purpose and it has paid off on the field.
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That brings us to the cornerback position. This is where the Ravens front office really needs to shift its focus. In 2014, they had to battle injuries and quite frankly, a lack of talent at the position. Jimmy Smith was on his way to becoming a shutdown corner before his season-ending foot injury. If he is able to fully recover from the injury, he should have no problem regaining the form that rewarded him such high praise.
There are still some concerns regarding the rest of the group, however. Lardarius Webb is still a very serviceable corner, but he hasn’t quite been the same since his knee injury. Before the injury, he was becoming one of the top cornerbacks in the AFC, but now, quarterbacks don’t seem to be as hesitant to throw his way as they once were. Asa Jackson is a guy who has battled injuries, as well as off-the-field issues, but he has shown some serious flashes of what he can do when given the opportunity.
The key in the secondary will be the development of the young guns like Terrence Brooks, Matt Elam, and Rashaan Melvin. Brooks has had some highs and some lows this season before it ended with a knee injury. Melvin came on pretty strong at towards the end of the season, showing signs of promise. Elam, on the other hand, has been somewhat of a project, having not met expectations after being drafted in the first round in 2013. One has to wonder how much more patience the team has left before they look for a replacement.
Although some of these players have shown flashes, let’s be real. This simply does not look like a secondary on a Super Bowl caliber team. There are a number of options for Baltimore in this year’s draft class. Some of the most realistic options include Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson, Washington’s Marcus Peters, LSU’s Jalen Mills, UConn’s Byron Jones, and Florida State’s P.J. Williams.
If the Ravens want to be competitive next season and get back to the dominant defense of old, they will need to make the necessary moves in the secondary. Yes, there are other needs to address, but they just don’t seem to be as glaring as the one on the perimeter of the defense.