Just remember, the Ravens secondary could be worse

September 24, 2012|Mike Preston

Bring back Frank Walker.

For those who are overly concerned about the Ravens problems in the secondary, that puts it all in perspective.

It could be worse.

Walker, nicknamed "Backdraft" because he was always getting burned, could be the starting cornerback like he was on occasion in 2008 through 2009. He could be spitting on players. He could be getting lit up like the latest video game craze.

Instead, the Ravens have Cary Williams. And they have Jimmy Smith. But they also are in first place in the AFC North and have won two of three games played in less than two weeks, and have the ever so sorry, woeful Cleveland Browns coming to town Thursday night.

It could be even worse if Walker was on one corner and DeRon "Third and Long" Jenkins was on the other.

But that's not the situation. There is concern around town, and rightfully so, that these aren't the same Ravens we used to know. The old Ravens didn't give up 30 points or surrender 500 yards in games.

They used to devour some of the NFL's best running backs and quarterbacks and opposing teams feared the Ravens defense, especially playing in Baltimore.

But what you dislike now, you might like later. Defensively, the Ravens can't get any worse. Plus, except for Houston, who else is lighting it up in the AFC? Cincinnati? New England? The Ravens have beaten both.

Pittsburgh is struggling, San Diego is a fraud contender as usual and the New York Jets have the greatest collection of clowns since Ringling Brothers.

The Ravens will get better on defense. They were expected to struggle early because of so many new faces and a new defensive coordinator.

Before the start of the season, this was expected to be the season of transition where some of the team's aging superstars on defense like safety Ed Reed and linebacker Ray Lewis passed the torch on to younger offensive players like running back Ray Rice and quarterback Joe Flacco.

The Ravens are on target.

The only thing left is to get offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and Flacco totally on board. Cameron has to remember that it's not just the Joe Show, but Rice is the co-headliner.

Flacco needs to remember that tight end Dennis Pitta is a singles hitter, but a home run hitter like receiver Torrey Smith needs to get as many swings (passes thrown his way).

But overall, with the exception of the second half of the Philadelphia game, the no-huddle offense has been a success. The offense is rolling up numbers and points and they can win shootouts like they did Sunday night against New England.

The Ravens couldn't do that two years ago.

There aren't many major concerns about the offense except for the occasional bizarre play calling.

It's different on defense.

There has been improvement in young players like outside linebackers Courtney Upshaw, Albert McClellan and even Jimmy Smith , but defensive tackle Terrence Cody and outside linebacker Paul Kruger haven't shown much.

Smith has been getting burned a lot, but nothing compared to starting cornerback Cary Williams who gets victimized several times every week. You'd like to see both players become more physical and hands on in press coverage, but that doesn't appear to be in their DNA.

Some skeptics want to point fingers at defensive coordinator Dean Pees, but what you're seeing with the Ravens is a result of years of losing coordinators and players season after season.

It has taken a toll.

Late in the game Sunday night, it appeared Pees had taken a page out of former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan's playbook.

In other words, he brought the damn house every play.

It works for me. It has to work for the Ravens because they can't get pressure with their front four.

At least Pees has Lewis and Reed. They'll keep everything calm on the defensive side regardless of the score. Maybe by the end of the season, they will have tutored and gotten some of these younger players to improve.

Next up are the Browns. Some say this is a "trap" game, but there are no such games for the Ravens. Those games are for teams that dominate, not ones that squeak by.

The Browns can't be taken lightly. It's a division game played at night on national TV. Regardless of Cleveland's record, the Browns have played hard and been physical against the Ravens.

After Thursday, the Ravens won't play another game for 10 days. By then, they should be 3-1 and that's pretty good after playing four games in 17 days.

It could be so much worse.

Frank Walker could be the starting cornerback.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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