The Main Competitors:
The Ravens are in need of a starting free safety due to the shuffling at that position. James Ihedigbo was the starting strong safety last year, while Matt Elam started at free safety.
Ihedigbo left in free agency this offseason to sign with the Detroit Lions, and Elam was moved to strong safety to replace him.
Baltimore must now find who will start at free safety. Early on in camp, it looks like the veteran Darian Stewart is the favorite. He entered camp as the favorite after performing well in OTAs, and he's maintained that lead.
Part of the reason why he's the favorite is the familiarity between he and former St. Louis Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo, who now serves as the Ravens’ secondary coach and assistant head coach.
Of course, Spagnuolo had a hand in getting Stewart to Baltimore. According to via BaltimoreRavens.com, Spagnuolo likes Stewart's athletic traits:
'Stew’ is one of those guys that when we took [him] as a free agent, the thing that stuck out was that he was a very explosive guy...I’m talking about change of direction and not necessarily just straight speed. He’s showing that a little bit now. I remember that being vivid when he was a young guy. When we [signed] him, my hope was he’d still have that. He still does.
Stewart has been running with the first-team defense during camp. His primary challenger has been Jeromy Miles. He too has been getting snaps with the starters, though it's been only when Stewart was moved to cornerback, according to Ryan Mink of BaltimoreRavens.com.
Free safety Darian Stewart is occasionally moving over to play some cornerback when the Ravens want to give Jeromy Miles, who is also pushing for the starting gig, more snaps. Baltimore could use three safeties at one time.
The real surprise here is the fact that Miles and not Terrence Brooks is the primary backup to Stewart. Brooks, a third-round pick this year out of Florida State, was expected to compete for the starting free safety spot as a rookie.
However, the rookie learning curve appears to be hitting Brooks harder than expected. John Eisenberg of BaltimoreRavens.com reports Brooks has been running with the third-string defense.
To be fair to Brooks, he's a rookie with less than a full week's worth of NFL practices under his belt. It's too early to rule him out of becoming a starter at some point this year. That said, it looks like this position battle is going to come down to the veterans in Stewart and Miles.
In terms of previous starting experience, Stewart has a big advantage over Miles. In four seasons in the NFL, Stewart has played in 54 games, starting 19 of them. Miles has played in 51 games over four seasons but has started in just one game, which came in 2012 when he was with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Stewart is the favorite to win this job, and as of now, Miles looks to be his biggest challenger.
Stewart holds off Miles and Brooks and wins the starting free safety spot.