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Positional Review Preview: Defensive Backs

safety

2008 Review:

Starting with the corners it was a season that saw plenty of turnover as well as injuries to the starters. Chris McAlister’s knee troubles continued to limit his time on the field as well as his chilly attitude towards the new coaching staff. The former All-Pro played only six games but perhaps his lowlight was against the Colts where he was been several times for touchdowns. Even in such limited time he did snatch three interceptions.

Samari Rolle has battled through a host of injuries including a bout with epilepsy but managed to still be able to cover and had three interceptions as well.

This meant that the signings of Fabian Washington and Frank Walker in the off-season turned out to be smart moves. Washington showed great quickness in keeping up with the opposition but little proficiency in tackling. Walker who was known more for his trash talk was slow to get in track but improved and was a valuable asset against Pittsburgh slobbering aside.

Corey Ivy played a tough Nickel back claiming 51 tackles and 2 1.2 sacks. Ivy’s fortitude and tenacity were a beauty to watch even though at times he was simply outmatched by size over the middle.

Evan Oglesby and Derrick Martin contributed on special teams and didn’t appear much in other formations.

Ed Reed had a stellar season at Free Safety and seemed to get stronger each week as he battled a nerve condition. He finished with nine interceptions and ran two back for touchdowns including a record setting 108 yard return against the Eagles.

Dawan Landry was hit with a scare during the Week Three contest against the Browns after being struck in the helmet with a knee by Jamal Lewis. He was placed on IR with a spinal injury and was out for the season.

However once again depth was key to the Ravens success as Jim Leonhard made the most of his opportunity to step in for Landry. Leonhard was third on the team in solo tackles (55) and provided punch as a fine punt returner as well. His shining moments in the playoffs were key to the Ravens win over the Titans.

Draft picks Haruki Nakamura and Tom Zbikowski played roles on special teams but did get opportunities in the Dime coverage. Nakmura showed a knack for being around the ball and Zbikowski lived up to his reputation as a punishing hitter.

Daren Stone played in eight games but unfortunately has the distinction of making an ill advised penalty against Pittsburgh that proved too costly.

2009 Preview:

No area underwent more change than the Baltimore secondary.

Corey Ivy signed with the Browns and Jim Leonhard parlayed a very good season into a payday with the New York Jets. Chris McAlister was cut by the team and still has yet to be picked up by anyone. His injury concerns may have scared teams off and it remains to be seen if his career is finished.

Speed appears to be the theme in the secondary’s makeover.

Local product Domonique Foxworth was the Ravens’ first free-agent addition, signing a four-year, $27.2 million deal that included $16.5 million in guaranteed money. This was a questionable move to give so much to money to a player whose tackle numbers have dropped each of the four years of his career and for one who only has 4 career interceptions. He is expected to replace McAlister.

Fabian Washington should start at the other corner and was the team’s best corner overall however he needs to stay free of nagging injuries.

Samari Rolle was coaxed into returning and should be back in a reserve role or could compete for the Nickel slot. He’s gone through a lot the past two seasons but if healthy he can still cover.

Chris Carr was signed away from the Titans and should make more noise in the return game on Special Teams. While Frank Walker and Derrick Martin will provide further support.

Draft pick Lardarius Webb could also be a factor not just as a potential Nickel but also can handle return duties as well. He may get his chance early.

Ed Reed had a lot of people worried at the start of 2008 and even during the first few game he was very tentative when making a hit. But as he caught fire during the season he reminded people how dangerous he is after the catch. He enters his 8th having no fewer that 5 INTS in only one season. He should be fun to watch again.

Dawan Landry appears ready to retake his starting spot at Strong Safety. During his brief time in Baltimore he shown to be a superior hitter and if he can regain to form he makes a nice tandem with Reed. He also provides the only real physical presence in the secondary so his return is important.

If he isn’t up to snuff right away either second year player, Nakamura or Zbikowski could be a nice option. Nakamura has received praise from Greg Mattison as a heady player and should be used on Dime Blitz packages. Zbikowski is in the same mold as Leonhard, a strong tackler who plays the game with passion. The Ravens appear to have depth here.

The Ravens appear to have plenty of speed but not much physicality in the secondary. That should make it all the more important to be able to apply pressure and get opposing quarterbacks confused, then all that speed could be an asset.


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