BALTIMORE – Cary Williams read Carolina Panthers wide receiver Dexter Jackson’s alignment and rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen’s eyes, diagnosing their intentions.
Then, the Baltimore Ravens cornerback’s instincts took over as Jackson slipped to the ground after Clausen released the football.
Williams jumped in front of the pass, returning it 32 yards for the Ravens’ lone interception during a 17-12 preseason win Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
“I just basically read it from the start, I knew that it was an out,” Williams said. “I’ve seen that play before watching film and I just really wanted to get to the spot. The guy happened to fall down and I just made the play. I got there as fast as possible.”
Williams was credited with three pass deflections and three tackles, substituting for Chris Carr after a few snaps.
One of his pass deflections was an end-zone pass from Clausen.
Williams also bashed into Armanti Edwards to prevent a deep throw.
Overall, his showing backed up the confidence that he has earned from the coaching staff over the past year since being signed off of the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad.
“Cary played really well,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “It was good to see. I can’t wait to see the tape. From my eye on the sideline, I thought he played with great discipline.
“He really played with an attention to detail and technique. When he does that, he’s a heck of a player. I enjoyed Cary out there. That was good to see.”
The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder has good speed, excellent height and improving fundamentals.
Williams’ outing went a long way toward securing a roster spot to provide depth to an injury-riddled secondary.
Williams has a pending two-game suspension for violating the NFL personal conduct policy. With his ability, the Ravens could use him in the regular season once his punishment is over.
“I didn’t play the perfect game, but I played to the best of my ability,” Williams said. “I went out there and gave it 110 percent on every play.”
Williams played through some pain, knowing the secondary could ill afford to be missing another cornerback with Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington sidelined with knee injuries and Carr limited due to a hamstring injury.
“It’s something I have to fight through,” Williams said. “It’s not quite a turf toe. It’s something real sensitive at the bottom of my foot on the sides of my big toe. It’s not that bad, I can play through it.”
NARROW MISS: Vying for the Ravens’ kicker job in a competition with Billy Cundiff, Shayne Graham converted a 32-yard field goal.
It was his narrow miss from 50 yards, wide right, which stuck with him, though.
“It felt like it was going to start right and go back left a little bit, just the way it was moving,” Graham said. “It didn’t move as much as I thought it would. I hit the ball well, gave it a chance to get there and it just didn’t go the way I planned it to.
“You know you have the leg strength to make it. You know it’s an awesome kick. Would it look good on paper? Yeah. It would be great to have gotten it done. A simple fact is I didn’t make it and you got to keep trucking.”
Cundiff converted two extra points and booted two kickoffs into the end zone.
Graham had one touchback.
“I know Billy did a good job on his kickoffs,” Graham said. “When you leave the game with one field goal and a touchback, I’m not going to be upset with that.”
EYE-CATCHING: Undrafted rookie cornerback Prince Miller turned in an electrifying 57-yard punt return in the third quarter.
He also nearly intercepted a pass, recording three tackles and knocked down two passes.
The 5-foot-8, 198-pounder from the University of Georgia was extremely elusive on his long return where he came into contact with roughly seven Panthers and used a stiff-arm to push some of them to the turf.
“Your natural ability takes over,” Miller said. “You’re not out there thinking about your next move. You’re just running. I can’t thank the guys enough for giving me great blocking. It all goes back to that.”
Miller entered camp under consideration for the practice squad. For him to beat the odds and make the final roster, special teams could be his ticket.
“That’s the plan, to go out there and play well in all phases,” Miller said. “I know special teams is a big part of it, and I want to go out there and play as well as I can.
“I think I’ve got the skills. Hopefully, I showed that and hopefully I’ll continue to show that throughout the preseason.”
WASHINGTON UPDATE: Held out of the first preseason game even though he’s practicing every day, Washington is taking a cautious approach with his surgically-repaired anterior cruciate ligament.
“The first regular-season game, that’s the key,” Washington said. “I wasn’t that disappointed.”
Washington said it’s unclear if he’ll play next week against the Washington Redskins.
“It’s still up in the air, we’ll see,” Washington said. “I’m going to have to play at some point. This is preseason, but the sooner the better. The knee feels good. I wouldn’t practice if it didn’t.”
PASS RUSH: The Ravens recorded seven sacks.
“In the two-minute, we got pressure at the end,” Harbaugh said. “That was great to see, young guys bringing it. Most of it was three and four-man rush. Our pressure package was there early.”
PASS PROTECTION: Starting at left tackle after playing at right tackle as a rookie last season, Michael Oher was beaten for a sack by Tyler Brayton.
Brayton also beat left guard Ben Grubbs for another sack.
“I’ll work on everything I did wrong and everything I could have done right and try to correct the little things,” Oher said. “Basically, you have to get back to being used to one spot. Basically, you change all your muscle memory.
"It’s like going from being right-handed to left-handed. I think I’m comfortable. I’ve still got a lot of things to work on.”
QUICK HITS: Carr opted to play after feeling comfortable during warm-ups and lobbying the coaches. “I’ve been feeling good and warming up I felt pretty good on it,” he said. “So, I said I would give it a try. It went all right, felt a little sore. Being a competitor, you want to go out there and be with your teammates.” … Oniel Cousins, who’s still regaining his strength after offseason surgery to remove a noncancerous cyst from his esophagus, held up for the most part as he got the start at right tackle. “I felt good overall,” Cousins said. “It felt good to be back playing in a game. There’s always room for improvement. We’re going to watch the tapes and come back better next time.” … Offensive tackle Joe Reitz, who played college basketball and had some professional offers from European teams, flubbed a slam dunk attempt on the crossbar when quarterback Troy Smith handed him the football after his touchdown run. “He should be making dunks of all people, right?” Harbaugh said. “Obviously, he was boxing people out in his college career and not scoring.” … Rookie running back Curtis Steele had a solid night running the ball, but fumbled. “He looked explosive,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got talent, no question about it. He has to learn in that situation. Wilbert Montgomery talked to him before he went out there about protecting the football. He got anxious and tried to make too much happen and put it on the turf.” … Jameel McClain started at inside linebacker, but had at least one play he’d love to have back. He got planted to the ground in the first quarter by Panthers fullback Tony Fiametta, a Walkersville High graduate. … Wide receiver Anquan Boldin got a nice round of applause after catching a 12-yard pass from Joe Flacco. “It felt good,” Boldin said. “We’ve been beating up on each other for the past week, so it felt good to get across from someone else to see where we are.” As for the ovation, Boldin said: “Very welcoming.”