For years, the secondary of the Baltimore Ravens has been considered one of the team’s weakest links next to the receiving core and the quarterback position.
Then, in 2009, the Ravens used the 88th pick (third round) in the draft on Lardarius Webb. Webb has improved in each season and has found himself in contention to be one of the starting corners.
In the 2011 draft, the Ravens used their first round draft pick on Jimmy Smith.
Smith was believed to be a starter opposite of Webb from the beginning of last season until he injured his ankle on the opening kickoff of the season against the Steelers. When he came back in the middle of the season, he recorded two interceptions and earned more time as the season went on, including the playoffs.
In comes Cary Williams, a player who had been trying to make his name known in the NFL since 2009 when he was playing in Tennessee. What does he do? Shuts down almost every opposing receiver to help bring a feared secondary back to Baltimore.
So which of these three defensive backs will start in the Ravens’ secondary in 2012 alongside Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard?
There’s a general consensus that Webb will be the number one corner on opening day. He’s been ranked in the top 10 defensive backs by ESPN and for good reason.
Last season, Webb snatched five interceptions, including a pick-six against the New York Jets. He increased his tackles by 13 from 54 to 67. He recorded one sack and was also a standout return man (one return TD and a season-long return of 68 yards).
Even more impressively, Webb did not allow a touchdown in all of last season.
That leaves the second spot for either Smith or Williams.
Since Smith was the team’s first pick in the 2011 draft, there’s much hope riding on the young man from Colorado. His size, 6-2 210 lbs. is a huge asset.
Williams proved many doubters wrong last season, but he did fail to record an interception and has yet to pick off a pass in his entire career.
Williams has also missed mini-camp and OTAs because of offseason hip surgery, which has allowed Smith to shine and get extra reps with the starting defense.
As it stands right now, I’d have to say Webb and Smith will be the two starting corners for Baltimore. Smith’s potential and a full offseason should help him outshine a recovering Williams and, for at least the beginning of the season, allow him to start.