Ravens Finding Right Mix At Cornerback


Last year, Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees rotated his cornerbacks out of necessity due to injury.

This year, Pees has more to work with. And he may have found the right combination. 

The Ravens held Pittsburgh to just 124 yards through the air last Thursday. Yes, Michael Vick was under center instead of Ben Roethlisberger, but the Steelers still have quite talented pass catchers with Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le'Veon Bell.

Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb were the starters, playing 100 percent and 87 percent of the snaps, respectively. Baltimore switched up its third and fourth cornerback rotator, however. Newcomer Will Davis saw 22 snaps (35 percent) and Kyle Arrington had 21.

Arrington was playing more than half of the Ravens' defensive snaps in the first three games of the season. With Davis' arrival, he dropped to about a third against the Steelers.

On Thursday, Pees made it clear that Arrington didn't fall down the depth chart.

He said he likes Webb as the nickel corner when the Ravens go with three cornerbacks because it presents the best matchup inside. Davis is more of a true outside corner than Arrington, who also does well in the slot.

"In no way do I look at No. 24 [Arrington] as a demotion or anything like that at all. I just feel like that's a better fit moving some guys around a little bit," Pees said.

"Kyle is still a very, very important part of our defense, because he fulfills a lot of different roles. He's a guy that can go play nickel. He can go play corner. He can actually go play some safety if we needed him to. He kind of has that role right now a little bit."

Davis responded well to his first game getting snaps with the Ravens. According to Pro Football Focus, he was targeted three times and allowed just one catch for 8 yards. Davis had a key pass breakup on third down to force a punt and made nice tackle on Bell.

"The coaches told me straight up, 'If you know what you're doing, we're going to throw you in there.' Just go in there and cover it," Davis said.

"You've got to go with what's hot right now. As much playing time as you can get, you want it. They've got a plan and whatever that plan is, I'll just go in there and do my job. The more the merrier."

Arrington took a positive outlook on the new rotation. Signed this offseason, the seventh-year pro has 13 tackles so far and says fewer snaps could take a little "wear and tear" off his body.

"We have great depth, great guys on the team. We all actually like each other, so that's always beneficial," he said. "Guys always want to see each other do well, but it's an every-man-for-himself mentality when you're out there [practicing]. You're trying to make plays and be on the field."

The Ravens also have Rashaan Melvin and rookie Tray Walker waiting in the wings if needed. Davis took Melvin's snaps after the second-year player struggled against Cincinnati the week before.

Baltimore's secondary had back-to-back brutal games against the Raiders (351 passing yards) and Bengals (383 passing yards) sandwiched between two gems in Denver and Pittsburgh. Now it's a matter of finding out which unit the Ravens really have patrolling the defensive backfield.

"It was just good to see us play team defense like we are capable of playing," Pees said. "We played it [well] Week 1 and Week 4. Now we just have to find that same formula and play it for the rest of the season and forget Week 2 and 3."

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