Oct 20, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (89) is tackled after a pass reception by Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith (22) during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ravens at Crossroads on Corners

Since Chris McAlister left town, the Baltimore Ravens have searched desperately for a dependable, “lock down” Cornerback. To date, they haven’t found one. They have had good corners from time to time, but the guy that’s going to “shut down” his side of the field, year in and year out, has eluded them.

McAlister’s last season as a full time starter was 2006 when he picked off six passes, running two of them back for touchdowns, and had 22 pass defenses. Although McAlister’s performance declined in 2007 and 2008, the Ravens elected to pass on drafting a Cornerback in either year. In 2009, the Ravens selected Lardarius Webb, an undersized (5’10”, 179 lbs) Safety turned Cornerback out of Nicholls State University with their third round pick.

The Ravens elected to ignore the Cornerback position again in the 2010 draft; however, they did take Jimmy Smith in the first round of the 2011 draft and followed with Chykie Brown in the fifth round. The next year, the Ravens took Asa Jackson in the fifth round and dipped into the pool again in 2013 by taking Marc Anthony in the seventh round.

Each year, the Ravens manage to find relatively good, “stop gap” Cornerbacks and each year those corners leave for “greener pastures.” The instability at Corner has been hidden by the outstanding performance of the Ravens’ defensive front seven.  The pressure from their front end coupled with the stellar play of Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, and the other Ravens Safeties helped “average” Cornerbacks elevate their game.

“Each year, the Ravens manage to find relatively good, “stop gap” Cornerbacks and each year those corners leave for ‘greener pastures’ ” — Ken Jackson

This season, the Ravens just might be in a pickle. Starting Cornerback Lardarius Webb went down with a back injury. It was just announced this week that he will not play for the rest of the preseason. Although Webb isn’t a “shut down” Corner like Darrelle Revis or Richard Sherman, he and Jimmy Smith are the best the Ravens have. Smith was also injured last Saturday in the game against Dallas. However, Webb is “probable” for this week’s contest against Washington.

The Ravens’ reserve Cornerbacks have also been hit hard. Asa Jackson, who is expected to play at Slot Corner, has been “banged up” with an ankle injury. Aaron Ross, the ex-Giant free agent that signed on with the Ravens’ for one year, has been placed on Injured Reserve with a bad back.

That leaves the Ravens with one experienced Cornerback (Dominique Franks) and four rookies (Deji Olatoye, Tramain Jacobs, Sammy Seamster and Marrio Norman). Franks is a 2010 fifth round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons who has never been a full time starter in the NFL. He has three picks in four full years of playing and has very “average” cover skills.

Norman is an interesting case. Despite being a rookie, Norman is 28 years old with professional football experience. He has played for the Orlando Predators and the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League.

Unless General Manager Ozzie Smith can “pull a rabbit out of his hat” in short order, the Ravens might be in serious trouble and could miss the playoffs again. With Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan on the schedule as well as the regular nemeses in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, the Ravens secondary might be in for some long afternoons.

It would not be surprising if GM Ozzie Newsome rents one or two Cornerbacks when NFL teams trim their rosters to the required 53 man limit. However, the Ravens should think very seriously about drafting a strong “cover” Corner in the early rounds of next year’s draft. Failure to do so might seriously hamper their effort to win another Lombardi Trophy in the near future.

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Tags: Baltimore Ravens Corner Defense

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