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Backup Cornerbacks Looked 'Tremendous'

Posted Aug 24, 2014

Anthony Levine played cornerback for the first time in his life Saturday against the Redskins.

The Ravens were down their top three cornerbacks: Lardarius Webb (back), Jimmy Smith (chest) and Asa Jackson (ankle).

Still, Baltimore chose to match up their backup cornerbacks one-on-one against some very dangerous Washington Redskins receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.

Talk about a challenge.

But the Ravens secondary held tough, hardly giving up anything through the air to the Redskins starters.

Head Coach John Harbaugh said at halftime that his cornerbacks were "tremendous," and lavished more praise on them after the game.

"I thought they played really well," Harbaugh said.

"We were talking on the sidelines. It's amazing if you play good, solid technique, you stay square, you keep things in front of you, and you keep your eyes where they're supposed to be, you can play good defense. Our guys did a really good job. That was good, disciplined, fundamental football back there."

Fans and pundits have expressed concern over the state of the Ravens cornerback corps with all the injuries. But on Saturday night, the group took a step towards proving Baltimore may just be alright even if some injuries linger longer than expected.

Webb, Smith and Jackson are expected back for the regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Ravens started Chykie Brown and Domonique Franks outside. A few safeties split up the role of playing the nickel cornerback, with Matt Elam, rookie third-round pick Terrence Brooks and Anthony Levine dropping down to the line of scrimmage.

It was Levine's first time ever playing cornerback, he said after the game.

"I'm very proud," Levine said. "I'm glad my coaches believed in me and trusted me to go out and just compete. … I'm fine with it. Wherever they tell me to go, I'm going to go do it and I'm going to do it with a smile on my face."

Despite no experience, Levine had one of the more standout plays. In the third quarter, Redskins backup quarterback Kirk Cousins drove his team down to the 11-yard line. Cousins tried to find wide receiver Aldrick Robinson in the back of the end zone, but Levine reached around and swatted the pass away at the last second.

That sent Levine, who finished with two tackles and a team-high two passes defensed, into a little dance. It made Harbaugh think about the position flexibility he has in his secondary.

"I'm not categorizing Levine as a safety necessarily," Harbaugh said. "I think you would have to say, after watching tonight, that he's a corner and a safety."

Franks and Brown locked down their receivers. Garcon caught just two passes for four yards. Jackson was shut out completely. Redskins starting quarterback Robert Griffin III was 5-of-8 for just 20 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception.

The group nearly had a couple more interceptions as well.

Brooks had one pick, which he scooped up just before it hit the turf, called back because of a pass interference call. Franks also broke well on one ball but saw it go through his hands. It wouldn't have counted regardless because a Ravens defensive lineman was offsides.

"Our whole goal tonight was to give up no big plays, nothing over our heads," Brown said. "Last week [in Dallas], we got away from that. We wanted to get back to that.

"This gives us a lot of confidence. It shows how well we can play without our leaders – Webb and Jimmy. It's the next man up."

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