Ravens Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees doesn't like the term "box safety."
"That is really an old-school term," he said.
The Ravens have long said their safeties are interchangeable. But the fact of the matter is that, over the past several years, they've always had at least one bigger thumper on the back end.
There was Dawan Landry, Bernard Pollard, James Ihedigbo, Will Hill and Kendrick Lewis. Hill and Lewis were the two starters last year. There's nothing wrong with an imposing hitter on the back end, but this year, the Ravens will have a different look.
With Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb as the two starters, the Ravens have a more athletic, faster duo with more range and better hands. They hope that results in more interceptions after a league-low six last season, and fewer big plays.
Pees said having two smaller safeties "isn't really the design." It just turned out that way with Weddle and Webb being the two best options.
Pees said he's seen a difference in playmaking and range on the back end so far in training camp.
"The good thing is, if you have two equal guys, then you can play them equal," Pees said. "If you have one guy that can do something better, then you have to do that with that guy. It's worked out well."
Weddle and Webb give up a collective 56 pounds and four inches to Hill and Lewis. That's just fine with them. Weddle is one inch taller and 13 pounds heavier, so they're almost the same size.
"You can tell I'm the big safety," Webb said with a smile as he flexed for reporters.
"We want to get more athletic in the back end. A lot of teams are going with the athletic tight ends and throwing the ball to those guys, so we want to be able to cover them. We have to change it up. We want to be athletic and get more interceptions, and the way to do it is to get some fast guys in the back end."
The Ravens may still roll in some of their bigger safeties, but they're trending more toward turning them into dime linebackers. The Ravens have converted Anthony Levine into a flex-linebacker and Terrence Brooks could perhaps be used in that role as well.
"If you look around the league, there are a bunch of DBs [playing linebacker]," Pees said, pointing to Arizona's Deone Bucannon and New England's Jamie Collins.
The biggest hurdle for Weddle and Webb in order for them to maximize their athletic skills will be to get on the same page with communication. Weddle has taken Webb under his wing to teach him the position.
"We have been working extremely hard," Weddle said. "The more we practice together, the more we get to feel what our communication will be – my looks, his looks and what I'm saying when I say different things."
Webb said Weddle has been a great leader and their "Joe Flacco on the defense." He's helping him make the right reads, to react to certain things while letting others go. The quicker the play can be deciphered, the better the chances of making a play on the ball.
"At corner, I used to have an eye problem. I used to love staring at the quarterback," Webb said. "I get to do it a little more now; that's what I'm supposed to do."