With the Ravens beginning their 20th training camp in franchise history this month, expectations are high for John Harbaugh’s team as they eye their seventh trip to the postseason in eight years.
As veterans report to Owings Mills on July 29th and the first full-squad workout takes place the following day, we’ll examine each position group entering the summer.
July 20: Quarterbacks
July 21: Defensive line
July 22: Running backs
July 23: Linebackers
July 24: Wide receivers
July 25: Tight ends
July 26: Cornerbacks
July 27: Offensive line
July 28: Safeties
July 29: Specialists
Below is a look at the Baltimore cornerbacks:
LOCK: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Kyle Arrington, Tray Walker
BUBBLE: Asa Jackson, Rashaan Melvin, Tramain Jacobs, Cassius Vaughn
LONG SHOT: Chris Greenwood, Quinton Pointer
Synopsis: Five cornerbacks finished the 2014 season on injured reserve for Baltimore, leaving the secondary in tatters for large chunks of the year. This offseason, general manager Ozzie Newsome did what he failed to do a year ago in adding depth at the position with the signing of veteran slot cornerback Kyle Arrington and the fourth-round selection of Tray Walker from Texas Southern. The key to this group will be the health of starters Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb, but there does appear to be some decent young depth behind them with options such as Rashaan Melvin receiving meaningful playing time last year. The Ravens hope a healthy offseason will lead to a bounce-back campaign for Webb, who dealt with a lingering back issue and did not play well for most of 2014.
One to watch: Smith agreed to a four-year extension this spring that firmly solidifies him as the No. 1 cornerback moving forward, but the Ravens will gently hold their breath until the 2011 first-round pick proves he is over the Lisfranc injury that ended his 2014 season last October. In the spring, Smith moved around well, but there was still the occasional sign of hesitancy with his surgically-repaired foot. Over the last two years, the 6-foot-2 defensive back showed the sky is the limit with his potential if he can stay healthy, but that’s a fair concern after he missed a combined 17 games in his first four seasons.
One on notice: It wasn’t just that Asa Jackson missed nine games due to injury in 2014, but he played poorly when he was on the field, finishing with the worst Pro Football Focus grade of any Ravens cornerback by a sizable margin. The addition of the veteran Arrington in the slot as well as the presence of some other young cornerbacks on the roster could leave Jackson on the outside looking in if he doesn’t have a good preseason. His ability as a return man would certainly improve his standing, but Jackson has shown little evidence that he’s able to contribute defensively entering the final year of his contract.
Sleeper: He appeared in only three games last year before being placed on IR with a hamstring injury, but Tramain Jacobs grabbed coaches’ attention last summer with a strong training camp to earn a spot on the practice squad and an eventual promotion to the 53-man roster. The former rookie free agent from Texas A&M doesn’t have overwhelming size at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, but he will be in the mix with the likes of Melvin and Jackson for a roster spot. As is always the case with players filling out the bottom of the roster, the ability to contribute on special teams will be the difference.