Great teams encourage and facilitate competition, that is no secret. The theory of bringing in competition for every roster spot has enjoyed a rejuvenation of sorts in the last couple of years, and teams that do it are winning games (and championships). The Ravens have their own share of positional competition going on this offseason, perhaps none bigger than for the slot cornerback job.
Before camp, it looked like the Ravens were contempt using a combination of Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown in the slot, but the scenario quickly changed as camp concluded. The team invited five additional defensive backs to minicamp and signed veterans Aaron Ross and Dominique Franks to add to the competition.
Jackson was a fifth round pick in 2012 who has already been suspended twice and whose contributions have come mainly on special teams. It’s pretty surprising that the Ravens haven’t thrown in the towel on him yet, so they must see some potential here. Still, Jackson profiles more as a punt returner than a regular defender.
Chykie Brown was considered the front runner to claim the slot corner position pre-camp, and may still be the favorite. The number 169 pick of the 2011 draft played just 39 defensive snaps last season but is also a solid special teamer. Brown has been slow to develop so far but has at least kept his nose clean.
Aaron Ross is a former first round pick of the New York Giants and was a rookie on the 2007 squad that won the Super Bowl. Current Ravens defensive backs coach Steve Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator on that particular team, so there is a connection here. Ross failed to live up to his draft status and has spent a great deal of time sidelined with injury. When healthy, he has been serviceable but unspectacular.
Dominique Franks spent his first four years with the Atlanta Falcons, but was mostly relegated to special teams. Despite appearing in all 16 games last year, he only played 13 snaps on defense. Franks is quite a bit younger than Ross (27 vs. 32) but has a lot less experience on defense as well.
On paper, it looks like Jackson, Brown, and Franks are all very similar players. All three are relatively young and adept at special teams, but have limited experience defensively. All three have failed to grasp the chance to earn meaningful defensive snaps to this point in their careers, which doesn’t really bode well 3-5 years in.
Ross can be serviceable if he stays healthy, and this battle may very well come down to himself and Brown. He has at least flashed a little playmaking prowess in the past and has been a part of two championship teams. His relationship with Spagnuolo may help as well. Ultimately we wouldn’t be surprised to see Jackson cut. Franks could easily replace him on special teams.
Who do you think will win the slot cornerback competition?