John Donne was full of bunk.
"No man is an island?" Really?
Donne clearly never entertained the responsibilities of a cornerback; though in his defense, the NFL was still in its nascent stages in the early 17th century.
Cornerbacks are expected to cover one-on-one. Single coverage. A lone player in the sea of the secondary.
Many times a cornerback is forced to contend with wide receivers blessed with superior height and world-class speed.
A *shutdown corner *is essentially a misnomer; a shutdown corner cannot be expected to negate all opposing production, rather contain it.
So is it fair that a cornerback should be completely accountable for his role given the circumstances?
"Absolutely," replied Domonique Foxworth. "I think when you come here (to the Ravens) and everyone is working towards the same goal, it's a ton of pressure; not because of anyone outside of here, but because you love these guys and you don't want to let them down. You definitely feel that accountability when things don't go well for you as an individual and you feel a great sense of pride when things do go well."
All right, so the expectations are warranted; but are they unfair?
"I don't know if I would consider it unfair," continued Foxworth. "I think it comes with the territory. It's not a surprise. It doesn't come out of left field. There's certainly responsibility that comes with playing my position."
Following last week's loss to the Bengals, the Ravens are the 19th ranked passing defense allowing 226 yards through the air per game.
To consider the NFL a pass-happy league is an understatement. Some industry insiders predict there will be ten quarterbacks to throw for 4,000-plus yards this season (there were six to do this last season). Combine that trend with an inordinate number of pass interference calls and the job of a cornerback is made exponentially harder.
"It can seem like no one wants the secondary to do well week in and week out," said Foxworth. "Everyone wants to see big plays and big touchdowns. It's the nature of the business. It's not a surprise to any of us and it's something we've become accustomed to. And it seems pass interference gets called more tightly year in and year out, so you just have to adjust."
Foxworth was signed as a free agent during the off-season. His game IQ and blazing speed made him an attractive fit for a secondary that lost both Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle.
"It was a dream come true," said Foxworth of his return to his onetime home of Maryland. "I really had a love for this city before I came here, and it's growing more and more the longer I spend here."
So far, however, big plays and untimely penalties have haunted the still proud secondary. Foxworth holds himself to such a high standard and knows Ravens fans do the same.
"We definitely know how important everything is to the fans," said Foxworth. "And it's so important to us throughout the year that we're working towards a common goal. And when things don't go according to plan, it's definitely an empty feeling. It feels awful and we sympathize and understand and empathize with the fans."
With the results on the defensive side of the ball a mixed bag, Foxworth understands that inevitably there are going to be those critical of their performance. But he has found a simple way of dealing with the negative press.
"You just don't read it or listen to it," said Foxworth. "You kind of assume it's out there, but you can't pay attention to it. You have to recognize that the media is doing their best to create interesting content for fans, and if you're not playing well, the interesting content is going to be negative."
Foxworth is also quick to point out that there is a lot that goes on unreported by the press that is integral to a team's success.
"They (the media) are not in our locker room. They're not in our meetings and don't fully understand our schemes," notes Foxworth. "You have to come to work, look at all the film, talk to your coaches, and do what you can do to make this team better."
Improvement on the defensive side of the ball will go a long way if the Ravens are hoping to make the playoffs. It starts this weekend against the AFC rival Cleveland Browns – a team struggling to find an offensive identity.
Foxworth recorded an interception in the first game against the Browns, but doesn't discount the heart and effort of a team with only one victory this season.
"Everyone is in the NFL for a reason," said Foxworth. "There are no bad players in the NFL. Any given day, players can step up. They all have the talent. You definitely look forward to the opportunity to play well against a team that hasn't been playing up to their potential. But, we all know in our minds that they all have the talent and any day they can stand up and be the team that they thought they were expecting to be."
A win would keep playoff hopes alive; a loss would be unfortunate.
Considering the words of John Donne, one could imply that no cornerback is an island. His play is not singular, but rather interconnected to the entire team.
Is it possible a struggling pass rush and a new defensive scheme are somehow related to an inconsistent secondary?
Maybe that Donne knew what he was talking about…