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Lardarius Webb said throughout the offseason that the Ravens have the best secondary in the NFL.
They will have to do more to prove it.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones torched the Ravens defense in the first quarter of the preseason opener. Ryan completed 9-of-13 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown, and Jones had six catches for 109 yards and a score. Roddy White also had three catches for 46 yards.
"They were hot," Head Coach John Harbaugh said after the 31-17 victory. "They made some plays. Our DBs were right there every time and they made the plays, so we're going to work on that."
Despite the rough start, Harbaugh wasn't ready to sound the alarm on his highly-touted secondary.
"I've got a lot of confidence in our corners," he said. "I think we're going to be very good there."
Webb and Cary Williams got the start at cornerback and Corey Graham started at nickel back, as second-year corner Jimmy Smith missed the game with a back injury.
Williams, who is coming back from offseason hip surgery, had a rough night.
He matched up against Jones early on and struggled to stop the second-year wideout. Jones had four catches for 55 yards on the opening drive, including a 7-yard touchdown grab on a fade route with Williams in tight coverage.
"We were in position, but it was just a matter of they made some plays and we didn't," Harbaugh said. "That's the way the NFL works."
"Every game you play is a learning experience," Williams added. "I think we could have been more aggressive sometimes. There are a couple of plays that we want back, but it's a learning experience. It's part of the process."
Williams is competing with Smith to retain his starting cornerback spot opposite of Webb. The fifth-year defensive back had to sit out most of the offseason recovering from the surgery, but he has been a full participant throughout training camp.
Now Smith is working his way back after he went down with the back injury last week and has yet to return to practice. When Smith gets back on the field, he and Williams will continue the tight battle for the starting job.
The bright spot for the secondary on Thursday was the play of the second and third teamers.
Atlanta's offense struggled to move the ball once Ryan came out of the game, and the Falcons' three backup quarterbacks – John Parker Wilson, Dominique Davis and Chris Redman – combined to throw for 130 yards on 15/30 passing. Safety Omar Brown also came up with two interceptions.
Williams and Webb hardly played after the first quarter, but Harbaugh is confident that the group will learn from the game and rebound in future weeks.
"Those guys have a lot of pride and they'll bounce back," Harbaugh said.