Eisenberg: How Ravens May Have Avoided CB Problems, With 20/20 Hindsight


The roughest part about the Ravens giving up six touchdown passes Sunday night is there's no apparent quick fix for the secondary.

Other than getting cornerback Jimmy Smith back as soon as his sprained foot allows, the Ravens have little choice but to go with their current pass defense, which has slipped to No. 26 in the league. They did make a move Tuesday, cutting veteran Chykie Brown and signing rookie free agent Tramain Jacobs off the practice squad, but remember what Head Coach John Harbaugh said last week when a reporter asked if the team might bring in another cornerback?

"If you have a name for me, I'm willing to hear it," Harbaugh replied, trying to add levity to the situation. (Scouting tips from reporters tend to be, cough, of lesser merit.)

Harbaugh continued: "If we could find the right guy, we would do that. But they're scarce."

After Sunday night, the football nation is aware the Ravens are struggling in the secondary entering the stretch of the 2014 season. Yes, there are other issues with a team that has fallen to last place in the AFC North, yet remains in the playoff hunt with a 5-4 record. (Cue the famous Jim Mora rant: "Playoffs? Playoffs?") But the secondary is the top priority.

Since there seemingly aren't any bold fixes to make going forward, I find myself looking back. How did the Ravens get here? What could they have done differently to avoid being in this situation?

With the caveat that we're all geniuses when given 20-20 hindsight, here are some possibilities:

They could have re-signed Corey Graham. Their No. 3 corner for the past two years was a smart, solid puzzle piece, and the Ravens valued him. He was one of their priorities heading into free agency, but they lost him when the Buffalo Bills gave him a four-year, $16 million contract.

They could have made a bold move to acquire a big-name corner such as Darrelle Revis or Aqib Talib. Both are with new teams this season, so they were "in play."

They could have drafted a cornerback. They loaded up on defensive players in the past two drafts, but it was all linebackers, linemen and safeties, many of whom are now playing. The last cornerback they drafted was Asa Jackson, a fifth-rounder in 2012.

Any of those moves could have changed the back-end landscape, and as noted, it's always easy to criticize in hindsight when things don't work out. But let's be honest, as things played out, was anyone screeching for those above moves to happen? I don't think so.

Losing Graham is the one the Ravens would like back; GM Ozzie Newsome admitted it was disappointing. But it wasn't regarded as a catastrophe. Graham wasn't starting, and when the Bills offered him more than the Ravens wanted to spend, the Ravens relied on their "right player, right price" principle, which has led to the departures of many players they haven't missed.

As for the draft, a second-day or third-day pick was unlikely to produce a corner who immediately contributed, and Talib and/or Revis, well, that's just pie-in-the-sky talk. The Ravens had limited maneuverability under the salary cap. There was no chance of them throwing more "big" money at a position where Webb is already one of their highest-paid players and Smith is due a lucrative deal.

Here's the truth: With Smith, Webb and the best No. 3 corner they could find, hopefully a "homegrown" such as Jackson or Chykie Brown, the Ravens felt pretty good about their cornerback blueprint coming into the season. I admit, I thought it was fine. The only real question was whether Jackson or Brown could step up.

Injuries have devastated that blueprint. After missing training camp, the preseason and the first month of the season with a back injury, Webb still isn't near his top form.  Jackson is on injured reserve with a toe injury. Now, Smith is out, a devastating blow.

None of it is an excuse. Every team deals with injuries. When they pile up, you don't get to put asterisks by your defeats. You just have to carry on, try to adjust and find a way to make things work. The Ravens were unable to do that against a red-hot offense Sunday night, but breaking news, they aren't canceling the rest of their season.

It's a fluid situation. Smith will return at some point. Jackson is on the IR list from which a player can be reactivated. The more Webb plays, the better he should get. Maybe Jacobs' fresh legs will make a difference. One way or another, with games against Drew Brees and Philip Rivers looming, the Ravens need to tighten things up. However they got themselves into this situation, they need to get out of it, like, now.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content