From Rags to Riches: Ravens' Secondary

BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 2: Lardarius Webb #21 of the Baltimore Ravens returns an interception for a touchdown against the New York Jets at M&T Bank Stadium on October 2. 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Ravens defeated the Jets 34-17. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

The Baltimore Ravens made a strong push this off-season to keep their defensive backfield in tact and dangerous for years to come by locking up cornerback Lardarius Webb to a lucrative multi-year deal. Currently, the Ravens are in talks for re-signing restricted free agent cornerback Cary Williams to a new deal as well.

The Ravens’ recent push to bolster their defensive backfield is a smart move in a league where quarterbacks are passing the ball more and more each season and receivers are physical freaks of nature that can be tricky to shut-down.

By keeping their current group of cornerbacks together for the foreseeable future, the Ravens will look to have one of the top defensive backfields over the next several seasons.

(After the "Jump", a quick look at how the Ravens turned it all around in a very short period of time.)

Heading into the 2010 regular season, the Ravens’ secondary was largely a mess. Domonique Foxworth went down with a season ending ACL injury sustained in training camp, and both Lardarius Webb and Fabian Washington were coming off of knee surgery. Practically in shambles, the Ravens traded with the Seattle Seahawks to acquire veteran cornerback Josh Wilson in a move to stabilize their ailing defensive backfield.

It was widely expected that the Ravens’ secondary would be a major weakness in 2010, and those thoughts became reality when the Ravens took the field that season. The Ravens’ usually suffocating defense finally had a noticeable weakness.

Although the Ravens performed well enough to earn a playoff spot in 2010, their regular season passing defense ranked 21st among all NFL teams.

2010 Regular Season Passing Defense: 3,599 total yards allowed/ 225 yards allowed per game/58.6 completion percentage/22 TDs allowed/19 INTs/ Avg. opposing QB rating of 76.4

After a season in which the Ravens knew they had to bolster their defensive backfield in an effort to improve upon a disappointing season, the team selected Colorado Cornerback Jimmy Smith with their 2011 1st round pick (27th overall). With too many unknowns and variables heading into the 2011 season such as: Foxworth’s injuries, Webb’s recovery from a knee injury, and an unproven Cary Williams signed off of the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, the Ravens seemingly didn’t have much hope within their secondary to perform up to par in 2011 and therefore was still considered a major weakness that could possibly take several seasons to fix. The promise and talent were there, but injuries and a lack of on-field performance was concerning.

Low and behold, the Ravens’ secondary performed very well in 2011, probably better than anyone would have ever guessed. Webb, fully recovered from an ACL injury, put together a stellar season notching 8 INTs through regular and post season play and also never allowed a single touchdown. Cary Williams stepped into a starting role and performed admirably, and while Jimmy Smith had a rocky up-and-down rookie season which included battling through an ankle injury suffered in the season-opener, he showed flashes of the player that he can be become with time to develop.

With limited expectations heading into the 2011 season, the Ravens’ secondary as a whole performed exceedingly well and finished as the NFL’s 4th ranked unit.

2011 Regular Season Passing Defense: 3,140 passing yards allowed/196 yards allowed per game/53.8 completion percentage/11 TDs allowed/15 INTs/Avg. opposing QB rating of 68.8

The performance by the Ravens’ secondary in 2011 is a far cry from the numbers they put up in 2010. Between getting healthy, picking the right players, putting everyone in a position to succeed, and a little luck, the Ravens managed to turn a unit ranked 21st in 2010 into one of the NFL’s best backfields in 2011.

And now that the Ravens are placing a high emphasis on keeping their top unit together by re-singing Webb and working out a long-term deal for Cary Williams, the Ravens should continue to have of the best secondary units in the NFL for years to come.

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