Street Talk Unanswered Questions in Defensive Backfield

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The 2013 season for the Ravens has long been in the rear view for many Ravens fans, but especially for the players. For them, it is always better to look ahead to next season than dwell on the many things that contributed to an unsuccessful season the year before.

For the coaching staff, however, it is different. They are tasked with finding out what went wrong, why it went wrong, and how it went wrong.

These are all things that keep those football minds up late at night.

For the 2014 Ravens defensive coaching staff, particularly secondary coach/assistant head coach Steve Spagnuolo, a high tolerance for repetition is required. He’s forced to process over and over the secondary’s shortcomings last season and what the team is going to do to solve those issues.

“You always evaluate what you did the previous year. Dean [Pees] has done that – the whole defensive staff has – and the one thing everybody’s disappointed in is the big plays,” Spagnuolo stated following practice on Friday.

Last season, one of the biggest ailments on defense was the ability to stop big plays. In 2013, the Ravens secondary gave up seven passing plays of over 50+ yards with five of those resulting in touchdowns.

“The one thing about having the responsibility of being in the secondary, whether you’re coaching or playing in it, is ultimately on a pass play that is deep, it falls on those guys. We take it personally.”

“We talked about it this morning, as a matter of fact – the pride of not giving up deep pass completions, even out here in practice. We don’t want to do that.”

“I told the guys we don’t care if it’s a walk-through, a jog-through or full speed – you don’t want to allow it. Now, it happens – we have some good players on offense, too – but we keep competing, pounding the fundamentals, and hopefully we don’t give them up.”

As training camp unfolds, the Ravens have a lot of unanswered questions in the defensive backfield and just a few weeks to answer them.

Who will start alongside Matt Elam? Who will replace Corey Graham in the nickle corner spot? Who will fill in if an injury occurs?

Second-year safety Matt Elam has been making strides throughout offseason activities and minicamp becoming more relaxed and vocal.

NFL free agency brought safety Darian Stewart to Baltimore, and in May, the Ravens selected safety Terrence Brooks in the third round of the draft, all in hopes of replacing James Ihedigbo who left via free agency.

The knock against Stewart is his health (never played a full season), while the inexperience of Brooks could possibly have opposing quarterbacks drooling with anticipation in hopes of exploiting the Ravens rookie safety.

For now, it appears the starting spot is Darian Stewart’s to lose. The competition between both Stewart and Brooks will heat up in training camp, but Brooks has been running with mostly the second and third team defenses so far.

In a group that consists of Brynden Trawick, Jeromy Miles, Anthony Levine and most recently signed veteran Will Hill (six game suspension),  the Ravens are in need of someone to step up and seize the opportunity as a worthy backup.

The cornerback position holds just as many questions.

Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb are locks at the position barring injury. Front runners for the spot vacated by Graham are Asa Jackson and Chykie Brown. Both are raw and inexperienced, but Spagnuolo has expressed confidence in both players.

“I’m going to talk about Asa first. He has really jumped out there and impressed everybody – players, coaches. He’s doing a lot of things we knew he could do. He’s a feisty player, and people are going to knock him because of his lack of height, but he plays big. He’s been really good,” Spags stated.

Spagnuolo echoed the same sentiment about Brown as well.

“Chykie has [grown] leaps and bounds. We were working on something today … We really need to detail some of the things he’s doing. But he was blessed with long arms and great ability. We’re looking for him to just keep progressing, and he’ll be fine.”

Vying for roster spots at the cornerback position include undrafted rookies Deji Olatoye, Sammy Seamster and Tramain Jacobs. The Ravens also signed veterans Dominique Franks and Aaron Ross however Franks has been unable to pass his conditioning test and Ross was lost for the season on Thursday when he tore his Achilles during his conditioning test.

Jacobs is worth keeping an eye on as the former Texas A&M corner has made some nice plays over the past two days.

While it’s early in camp and these situations have a way of working themselves out, the questionable depth leaves one a bit uneasy.

Follow me on Twitter @sportguyRSR

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About Brian Bower

Brian Bower is avid football fan, born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. He has covered the Baltimore Ravens and NFL player positives in the community for the past 6 years. This will be his 3rd season with the Russell Street Report. His work has been featured on, ESPN blogs, Comcast SportsNet Baltimore, as well as the Baltimore Ravens web page. He is also a regular guest on local radio and ESPN Radio in Honolulu, Hawaii. Brian is very involved in the community and has spent the last twenty years as a volunteer firefighter. Email him at More from Brian Bower

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