We all remember the opening game against the Denver Broncos two years ago. The Ravens were coming off a underdog story, Super Bowl winning run that was amazing to watch as a fan, but also was enjoyed by many that love the game of football. During that Super Bowl run, the Ravens beat the Broncos in the AFC Divisional Game, which has been named “The Mile High Miracle.”
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However, the opening game of the 2013 season told a very different story. Peyton Manning played arguably the best game of his historic career, throwing for seven touchdown passes and completely embarrassing the Ravens secondary. That game was a tone setter for the rest of the season as the Ravens went 8-8 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The secondary was the main culprit in the huge loss to the Broncos, but it looks completely different than it did two years ago.
The starting secondary for that game was Lardarius Webb, Corey Graham and Jimmy Smith in nickel situations. At safety it was Michael Huff and James Ihedigbo as the starters in that game. Three of those players are no longer with the team. Huff was cut during the season after being benched in that opening game. Ihedigbo is now with the Lions and has performed admirably there. I admit I was disappointed when the Ravens did not re-sign Corey Graham because he was a special teams player that the Ravens staff turned into a solid No. 2 corner and also picked off Peyton twice in that AFC Divisional Playoff win.
However with the all of the changes, the secondary is much better than that horrific performance two years ago. Now the starting safeties are Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis, along with starting corners Smith, Webb and Kyle Arrington. After serving his six game suspension, Hill played like a top-10 safety in the NFL. The Ravens desperately were searching for a true center field/cover safety and they have found one in Hill. Pro Football Focus published their top five cover safeties and I think you’ll recognize the name at the top:
The Ravens rewarded Hill with a contract extension and I expect him to have another great season in a Ravens uniform.
The Ravens signed the former Houston Texans safety to a three-year deal and Lewis has already assumed a leadership role in the back end of the defense. Webb is a player who needs to stay healthy. He is a wily veteran that is a solid number two corner that will continue to contribute and play an important role in a improving Ravens secondary. Arrington was signed by the Ravens after being cut by the Patriots and is a great slot cover corner that will cover the Ravens biggest weakness last season which was covering that third receiver. The Ravens used a plethora of players to cover the third receiver, like Anthony Levine and Matt Elam, who are natural safeties, so it will be nice for Dean Pees to have a consistent starter there.The Ravens also have young improving players like Terrence Brooks and Rashaan Melvin who were much more quality backups than what the Ravens had in 2013.
Overall, this secondary along with the Ravens formidable front seven and pass rush will provide a much tougher test for Peyton Manning this time around.
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