Prior to the opening game of the 2011 NFL regular season, Baltimore Ravens head coach announced his starting cornerbacks would be rookie Jimmy Smith and Cary Williams. That changed right away in last Sunday's opening day 35-7 beatdown of the Pittsburgh Steelers when Smith was injured the first time he was on the field for the kickoff following the Ravens three-play touchdown drive early in the first quarter.
Smith was diagnosed with a high-ankle sprain which will keep him out at least a few weeks according to Harbaugh. In his place, the Ravens employed a rotation of corners including Lardarius Webb, Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr. Even Cary Williams had to miss a few plays with a nagging injury but he returned to finish the game. Of the three other corners, both Carr and Foxworth were not 100%, so a majority of the snaps went to Webb.
Granted, Webb was a beast defending the run, throwing his 182 pound body all over the lace, making solid hits and tackling with force and confidence. However, in pass coverage not only was he less than effective, he was actually targeted by Roethlisberger regardless of whom he was defending. After a surprisingly impressive rookie season, it seems that Webb's cover skills have taken a step backwards and opposing quarterbacks such as Big Ben have tried to exploit the Ravens pass coverage in his direction.
Of course, Webb is far from the biggest problem in the Ravens secondary. Domonique Foxworth has not fully recovered from his ACL surgery and the results are obvious. Badly embarrassed in the Ravens pre-season game versus the Washington Redskins, Foxworth was playing way off his receiver and beaten regularly, looking slow and hesitant in coverage.
Chris Carr, while the best cover corner on the team in 2010, still is not fully recovered from his injuries and his availability and effectiveness remains up in the air right now. Rookie Chykie Brown was inactive for the Steelers game, but with Smith's injury, Brown might find his way to the active roster and playing time out of necessity. Even safety Haruki Nakamura came in as the nickel and dime back on Sunday due to the secondary's lack of depth.
That leaves Cary Williams and most likely Lardarius Webb as the Ravens best bet to open the game against the Tennessee Titans. However, if the pass rush is anywhere as effective at Tennessee as it was against Pittsburgh, it might not make that much of a difference and be good enough to beat a team that shouldn't be anywhere as dangerous as the one they demolished last week.