“The Competition” is a series that breaks down every position battle leading up to training camp.
Webb is back to his old self after taking the early part of last season to re-acclimate to the defense following the second torn ACL of his career. Webb has participated in the entire offseason program and is taking a leadership role on the defense. He was getting Pro Bowl consideration before tearing his ACL in the 2012 season, and he could return to that form this year.
The former first-round pick is coming off the best season of his career, where he emerged as a full-time starter and was able to stay healthy for all 16 games. Smith is looking to build off that performance, and he has said that getting more interceptions is a goal this year.
Brown has been a reserve throughout his first three NFL seasons, getting most of his action on special teams. Brown has filled in as a starter at times, and he held his own during the Super Bowl run in the 2012 season. Brown now has a chance to earn a spot with significant playing time.
Jackson was a fifth-round pick in 2012 whose playing time has been limited over the last two seasons. He was suspended twice by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, which has kept him from making an impact on defense. Jackson has flashed his potential during preseason action, and he’ll have to show the coaching staff that he’s ready for an elevated role this year.
Ross is a veteran corner who has spent most of his career with the New York Giants. He has been a starter for much of his career, but was limited to just four games last season because of a back injury. The Ravens signed him after a strong tryout during minicamp, and he has more experience than any of the other cornerbacks on the roster. Over the course of his career, Ross has 201 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 11 interceptions.
Franks was another post-minicamp signing, and he’ll challenge for an open spot at corner. Franks played for the Falcons the last four years, and was mostly a special teamer. He does have more experience than Jackson or Brown, which could help him as he competes for a roster spot.
The Ravens targeted Seamster as an undrafted free agent, and he chose to come to Baltimore because he thought he had a good shot to earn a spot on the team. Seamster is a big cornerback who is built like Smith, and the Ravens may want to add another physical corner to the roster.
Deji Olatoye (6-1, 198)
Olatoye also came to the Ravens because he liked the makeup in the secondary after the Ravens didn’t draft any other corners. He was impressive during the offseason program and came up with several interceptions during the limited practice time. If he keeps that up, he may play his way onto the team.
Jacobs has big game experience from playing in the SEC for Texas A&M the last two seasons. He played 26 games for the Aggies, racking up 55 tackles, two interceptions and 13 passes defensed. He will have to standout during training camp to make the 53-man squad.
Smith and Webb are virtual locks in the starting lineup, and the only competition between the two of them is who gets to wear the unofficial badge of the team’s No. 1 cornerback. They joke with each other about which one is the team’s top cornerback, and that argument will likely continue throughout the entire season. It’s irrelevant for the Ravens who gets that distinction of the top cornerback, as the team expects both of them on the field playing key roles for the defense.
The more enticing competition will be for the third cornerback spot. Brown and Jackson were the top candidates for the job throughout the offseason, but then the Ravens signed Ross and Franks after minicamp tryouts. Those four defenders will battle it out throughout training camp to determine who will win the third cornerback spot that opened up when Corey Graham left in free agency. That spot is critical in today’s NFL, as defenses often have three corners on the field to combat pass-heavy formations.
The other intriguing competition will be between the undrafted rookies, who were priority free agent signings. Seamster had multiple offers after going undrafted, and Olatoye was one of the more impressive rookies during the offseason. They will compete with Jacobs for one of the final spots on the 53-man roster. The Ravens could also use the practice squad as a landing spot for one of the undrafted free agents.