This is the third in a series of articles regarding the roster and depth chart of the Baltimore Ravens in 2011. In this article series, I'm going to share some research, opinion and predictions about what the Ravens team will look like next season.
Every year, there are always changes on a team's roster—some more than others. Baltimore had a solid draft this year. They will look for some of their rookies to compete for starting spots and others to provide depth and quality backup positions.
This third article will address the cornerback position: what corners the Ravens have on their roster, how the spots could be ordered and the quality of this corps in 2011.
The Ravens defensive back who has received the hype this year is unquestionably Jimmy Smith. The 6'2, 211-pound cornerback was drafted late in the first round by Baltimore. However, he was considered by many to be a top-10 talent who fell because of off-field issues and character concerns. If Jimmy Smith can overcome these concerns, many experts say that he could be the steal of the draft.
Smith is an exemplary cover corner who opposing quarterbacks avoided throwing to throughout his tenure at Colorado. Despite his height he has very good speed (Smith posted a 4.38 40) and should be a big presence on the Ravens defense.
One of the things certain about Jimmy Smith is that he has a lot of potential. He has more raw talent than any of the other corners on Baltimore's roster and provided he becomes familiar with the defense, could be the Ravens' No. 1 corner in 2011.
After suffering an ACL injury in training camp, Domonique Foxworth looks to return this year and become a presence in Baltimore's secondary. In 2009, his most recent season playing, Foxworth had 4 interceptions and 16 passes defended.
Foxworth has good speed but his height (5'11) can cause problems when covering taller receivers. He is at his best in press and zone coverage, but sometimes adjusts too late when covering deep throws or in single coverage.
Although Foxworth does not have the talent and physicality to be a shutdown corner, he has a good work ethic and should be able to lock up the No. 2 spot.
Baltimore traded a conditional draft pick to the Seattle Seahawks for Josh Wilson in 2010. After the benching of Fabian Washington, the agile corner stepped in and recorded a solid season, tallying 40 tackles, 3 interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), and 14 pass defenses.
Wilson is one of the better corners on the Ravens roster, but he is small at only 5'9 and 192 pounds. He makes up for it with good speed, finesse, and an eye for the ball. In Week 14 against Houston Wilson intercepted a Matt Schaub pass in overtime to give Baltimore a win.
Despite his impact on the team in 2010, Wilson is a free agent, and when the lockout ends the Ravens may not resign him because of his price tag. Wilson's status as a member of Baltimore is insecure at best and it's impossible to predict whether he will stay on the Ravens or walk in 2011.
Although lacking standout speed or size, the 5'10, 182-pound Chris Carr has a good grasp of the fundamentals of the game and a knack for the football. He played with the Ravens in the 2009 and 2010 seasons and in the latter season had 61 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions.
When Carr is in pass coverage he has some flaws. He will tend to allow a receiver to gain a step on him on a slant route or out route and then has to either catch up or get some help from a linebacker or safety in the area. He is a free agent as well. He has less skill than Josh Wilson but also comes with a reduced price tag.
Baltimore has a choice between resigning Wilson or Carr and they can go with either skill set or lower price tag. We don't know much about how this will turn out and at this point it's a toss-up.
Lardarius Webb was picked by the Ravens in the 3rd round of the 2009 NFL Draft. The small (5'10, 179 pounds), speedy corner out of Nicholls State has been a reliable player for Baltimore. In 2010 he had 54 tackles and 2 interceptions. Webb also saw some time as kick returner in 2009 and punt returner in 2010.
Webb is a decent corner whose only problems are a lack of finesse and a tendency to get burned on out and post routes. Some would say he regressed in 2010 but during that season he was recovering from a torn ACL.
It remains to be seen, but with a fully-healed ACL Webb could remedy some of his shortcomings in 2011, perhaps setting the stage to move up from the No. 3 spot.
Chykie Brown was drafted by Baltimore in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The corner out of Texas stands at 5'11 and 190 pounds. At his pro day, the defensive back ran a 4.49 40.
Brown doesn't figure to start immediately, being more of a development project, but could step in to provide backup. In college Brown, known for his physicality at corner, notched 106 tackles and 2 interceptions.
Chykie Brown is more of a raw developmental talent who will need work with the defensive backs coaches before really stepping into his role on the Ravens, but could potentially be a competitor in future seasons.
Cary Williams is a third-year player who, depending on the situation with free agents Josh Wilson and Chris Carr, could find his niche at nickel or dimeback. Williams only saw minor action during the 2010 season, mostly on special teams, notching six tackles and one reception on a fake punt.
Danny Gorrer is a practice-squader signed by the Ravens in 2010. He has 2 years of experience in the league and has played in a career three games, each for the St. Louis Rams, defending one pass.
Fabian Washington began the 2010 season as the starting cornerback, but was benched following poor performance and blown coverages. He is a nickelback at best and is expected to be released by Baltimore.