With three starting-caliber cornerbacks in Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith, much of the speculation regarding the Ravens secondary in training camp this summer has centered on which two of the three will open the regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 10 as the starters.
But as pointed out in Friday’s article, the defense used its nickel package – five defensive backs – for 50 percent of its snaps in 2011, the seventh-highest percentage in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. The Ravens also started three cornerbacks in four games, including January’s loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game.
Perhaps that’s why defensive coordinator Dean Pees doesn’t subject himself to discussions about which cornerback is going to start in the regular season.
“They will probably end up with a lot, probably equal snaps, anyhow,” he said Thursday. “Really, in my eyes, everybody is a starter that plays on any unit. … We have a ‘Raven’ defense, which is four DBs. We have a sub defense, which is five DBs. We might start the game in five DBs, so one of the outside ‘backers is out. Well, that guy’s a starter – that fifth DB is actually a starter. He started the game, but if we started in ‘Raven,’ that doesn’t mean the other guy. So we think of all those guys, if they are contributing in a package somewhere, they are really a starter on defense. So all of those guys are or will be a starter at corner, basically.”
Pees said each cornerback brings something tangible and unique to the position and it’s his job to play “mad scientist” and mix their talents into a cohesive attack.
“That will allow you to be very creative,” he acknowledged. “If a guy can blitz, we will get him in the blitz. I hope they can all blitz. I hope they can all cover, but you are going to sit down at the end of the preseason, you are going to sit down and evaluate where everybody is, what is the best fit, how can we utilize the guys in the best position – whether it be a cover corner or whether it be a blitz corner or [if] he’s better in zone, whatever it might be. Where can we position him to help us, and what’s also best for him? It’s a great versatility. They all bring different things to the table, but they all have similar traits, too.”