As we have come to find out that Cary Williams will not be moved to the Colts for Dwight Freeney (as the Colts gave up a 2nd and conditional pick to the Dolphins for Vontae Davis), the question arises on the outlook of the Cornerback position in Baltimore. What was thought to be one of the deepest positions on the roster (2nd to maybe the defensive line) when training camp began, having extra corners was a welcome luxury; now it looks more like a necessity. There have been some signs throughout the preseason, that the strength of the unit may be overrated.
Lardarius Webb had a Pro-Bowl caliber campaign last season and hopes are he will continue that success. That may be easier said than done, as he certainly made a name for himself around the league. Teams may be more inclined to shy away from Webb in the passing game after noticing not only his hands but return ability. In turn, the fans may see a drop in stats but the coach’s video will tell all on how well he actually performs this upcoming season.
Webb is certainly not the problem, but the players teams have been attacking in the passing game seem to be. We all watched the likes of Julio Jones carve up Cary Williams in Atlanta during the first preseason game and Calvin Johnson abuse everyone on the field in the second game. Those Receivers are considered part of the elite (and one of the best players in the game in Johnson’s case) and it is still the preseason, as the defense is not in full swing just yet; so there was no need to overreact.
But when the Jaguars come to town (without their best player, Maurice Jones-Drew) and a rookie (Justin Blackmon, who got to camp late), swindles four receptions and 72 yards (18.0 ypc) against the starters, there is a concern. Now most of that game he was matched up against Jimmy Smith, which is not a good sign for a player with high expectations this season. The Ravens seem inclined to handing him the starting position opposite Webb, but he has not had a good preseason game to date. If his lack of success and inability to stay on the field continue, he may be on the fast track to becoming the future at Free Safety and not Cornerback.
Cary Williams has struggled the past couple games as well but has significantly outperformed everyone during practice. He has been the best corner at Owings Mills for most of training camp, playing at the hip of the Receivers and knocking down balls at a decent rate. His upside may be more comparable to a Carlos Rogers, than one of the elite in the league (like many believe Jimmy Smith can achieve), but with a pass rush in somewhat flux, the Ravens need consistent performances by the defensive backfield.
The Ravens do have assets at corner with Asa Jackson and Corey Graham performing above expectations but hopes are neither would have to start a game this season. So who do the Ravens roll the dice with as a starter? It really will not matter as they will have to deploy three corners in their Nickel defense more and more with the expansion of the passing game. Prayers are that either Cary Williams or Jimmy Smith can turn things around once the games really matter.