One of the biggest question marks entering the offseason for the Baltimore Ravens was their suspect secondary. They finished 25th in passing yards allowed per game in 2015.
We heard how much Dean Pees’ unit improved over the last half of the season, however, it still left a lot to be desired as we saw lead after lead given up late in games.
Far too often we waited and waited for someone – anyone! – to get that game-changing interception or to force that lead-saving turnover. Last season, the defense recorded just six interceptions – five from the banged up secondary, three of which were by veteran cornerback Jimmy Smith.
There have been many changes in the secondary this offseason, all of which are centered around beefing up the defensive backfield. Leslie Frazier has been added to the staff as the secondary coach, Lardarius Webb has committed to his transition to safety, and free agent safety Eric Weddle and cornerback Jerraud Powers were signed.
Through OTAs and mandatory minicamp, those additions, coupled with the early focus on creating turnovers, have things headed in a positive direction – with the obligatory “small sample size” disclaimer.
“I think we are going to be good, but I always think that,” remarked cornerback Jimmy Smith when asked about whether or not the secondary will shock people in 2016. “I think putting [Lardarius] Webb back there at safety – that whole competition right now is really good.
“You’ve got guys coming on really strong. Terrence Brooks [is playing well], [Matt] Elam is playing pretty well. [Eric] Weddle, obviously, he is commanding the defense back there and is making plays as well.
“Everybody in that room, including our coaches, kind of are putting it in our head to get turnovers. It’s kind of a fight. It is a point system in there. Everyone wants to be on top of that board right now. So everybody, every day, is trying to strip the ball, pick up the ball, intercept the ball. I think it is going to be improved this year.”
While Smith has yet to take a snap in offseason activities (as he continues to recover from surgery to have screws removed from the right foot he injured in 2014), he’s been at each practice on the sideline with his teammates and is hoping to be ready to go by training camp, which is slated to begin July 27.
We won’t be able to see just how much progress the secondary has made until we see how they fare when the bullets are live so to speak. After all, (Ravens backups) Ryan Mallett, Josh Johnson and Jerrod Johnson are no Joe Flacco – nor Ben Roethlisberger or Andy Dalton, for that matter.
After, 2015’s – let’s say, less than desirable – results, the hope here is that the only place for the secondary to go is up.
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