“Oh, love it. Love it,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said about Smith’s return to practice. “He’s right on schedule, from what I understand. What schedule that is, I don’t know.”
This bodes well for that unit, which will be further strengthened by the return of fellow cornerback Tavon Young, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.
The Ravens led the NFL with 22 interceptions in 2017.
Rookie Marlon Humphrey emerged as one of the team’s top playmakers by the end of the season and Brandon Carr provides a veteran presence. In addition, the team is expecting Maurice Canady to build on his experience and make an impact in the slot.
As a result, this group is primed for another big year.
“I think we have more depth in the secondary right now than we ever have,” said new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, who took over for Dean Pees. “So where we’re going with this thing is really exciting to me, and I hope it’s exciting to you as well. I know it’s exciting to the players. Are there going to be bumps in the road? Of course there are going to be bumps in the road – you know that.
“But the thing that I’m most pleased with in these practices, these OTAs and minicamp, is our situational football. We have been outstanding at it. We’ve said this is going to be where we’re going to attack this thing head-on and be honest with each other in the meeting rooms and everything else. I think we’ve played really well in situational football out here in the spring so far.”
At safety, veterans Tony Jefferson and Weddle will be together for a second straight season, which will be beneficial to both their communication and making sure teams don’t hit big plays downfield.
In addition, the Ravens also added some intriguing younger players to the mix.
The team selected Anthony Averett in the fourth-round pick from Alabama. While there has been a limited exposure to NFL receivers, he exudes confidence and appears to be quickly understanding the playbook. However, Averett is a bit undersized at 5-11, 183 pounds, so he will have to make up for that with his physicality and coverage skills. He could also make an impact on special teams.
Safety DeShon Elliott, a sixth-round pick from Texas, has also impressed coaches so far in the offseason workouts. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, he can be a force in the secondary and has a nose for the ball. Elliott also has the speed to flip the field when he creates a turnover.
The Ravens want to dictate the tempo of games this season, and the secondary appears ready to set that tone.
One of the keys for this unit is the direction of Martindale, who plans to allow player the freedom to make high-impact plays.
“He’s just putting his stamp, his personal fix on our defense and expanding it and giving the guys confidence to play fast and to do what is best for the defense – not what’s best for the individual or to do certain things to get this guy on the field to make plays, it’s about what’s best for the defense,” Weddle said about Martindale. “And all guys are confident to make changes and to feel it out, see what’s coming, see the formation and decipher what is best for the defense and change accordingly.”