Through the first quarter and change of this NFL season, fans in Baltimore seem to have singled out one man to make the teams scape-goat. for Whatever reason fans have decided that one of the Ravens 5 main players in a secondary which has allowed 2 TDs in 5 games against 4(!) pro bowl quarterbacks(Dalton, Vick, Brady, Cassel). Is Cary Williams really the problem here?
First of all, lets look at the Ravens secondary. This is one of the most talented position groups on the team and it is arguably one of the best groups in the league. Ed Reed is a first ballot hall of famer and leads the way for everything this group does. Reed is getting older, but he has been having an excellent season thus far and has accounted for 4 turnovers and countless other positive plays that he cause just by presence alone. Go back and watch the Patriots game, anytime Reed played a “center field” role, Brady threw to the other side, sometimes it was successful, sometimes it wasn’t, but either way, Reed cuts about 1/3 off of a QBs field just by occupying a space. That, my friends, is intimidation at its finest. Next up is Lardarius Webb. Webb has a INT:TD Ratio of 9:0 over the past 25 games. His turnover to TD ratio is 13:0 over that stretch(adds in fumbles and passes defended on 4th down). Those are remarkable numbers and easily lead the NFL. To sum that up, he has not allowed a TD in 25 games, most in the NFL by almost quadruple (and the guy in second place is on IR, Brent Grimes has gone 7 games, Revis was at 9 coming into the season). QBs do not throw at this guy if at all possible. Next is Bernard Pollard who is playing at the highest level he has ever played right now. If his season stays on the path it currently is on, it is very possible the Ravens have 2 safeties that make the pro-bowl. Oddly enough, Pollards best game came against the Eagles when he played barely 1 full quarter. in that game he had 4 tackles, a sack, a pass defensed and an INT (in the endzone no less). finally we have the young Jimmy Smith. Smith has been a bit of an enigma, but has shown flashes of being a really really good corner. Smith is still very inconsistent, but at times he can amaze you with his physical ability and awareness, at other times you are trying to figure out if he ever had a clue there was even a play being run. Even so, Smith is a dangerous player to throw at and teams know it. he has excellent ball skills and on any given play he could be taking a pick back to the endzone which as a general rule, is not something Williams is going to be able to do (I know he did it in cleveland but that was on an underneath pass out just above the flat with no help if the pass were to get picked off, the only way to not take that to the house would have been to accidentally step on the sideline or to trip).
In the first four games Williams was routinely picked on by opposing QBs and it was easy to see why. Lardarius Webb, as stated above, is one of the best players in the league and as a general rule, QBs try to avoid throwing towards him. That means in 2 WR sets, the opposing QB has very little choice in man coverage but to avoid Webb and either throw to a TE or at Williams. Overall, the Ravens LBs and safeties have played very well in coverage against opponents TEs(forget the week 2 game, Celek wasn’t doing anything at all until Pollard left the game). That leaves Williams. The other issue Williams has had to face, is that he generally covers the opposing teams biggest WR because Webb is much shorter than him. That has left Williams one on one with the like of Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Lloyd, Jeremy Maclin and AJ Green. Three of those guys are probowlers and AJ Green is arguably the best WR in the league right now. pretty much no one in the league can consistently cover those guys for an entire game. This week, Williams will likely be assigned to Dez Bryant, another hyper-talented big bodied guy.
I would say that Williams has played well given the circumstances. He has yet to allow a TD. He has only allowed 2 catches in the redzone (one was a slant on third and 12 that he made the tackle and forced a FG on). Sure, Williams has give up a few big plays, but none of them have been killers and none of them were for scores. I don’t know about you but i think i can live with that as long as he keeps playing well.
So lets assume Williams isnt the problem. Now we have a new issue, Who is the problem? I am going to blame the pass rush. The NFL average for drop back time right now is about 3.5 seconds. the average time of the Ravens opponents is well over 4 seconds(4.43), almost a full second more than the NFL average. That is a lifetime on a football field, especially when you are playing some of the best QBs in the league. The secondary is good, but they cant cover every WR for 5 seconds, the rules dont allow them to do that, they can’ be physical enough. Almost every WR in the league can run more than 40 yards in less than 5 seconds, granted that is an unimpeded path and out of a sprinting stance, but I am just trying to say that they are all fast. even the slow ones. The Ravens need to help Cary Williams and the secondary by getting more pressure. right now they are making the whole team look bad.