Heading into the first practice of training camp, BaltimoreRavens.com will offer previews of those positions that feature a tough competition, focusing on who will be fighting for playing time. Today, the cornerbacks take the spotlight.
Two years after the Ravens' cornerbacks were considered a weakness, the team has finally overhauled the unit under head coach John Harbaugh.
Domonique Foxworth and Fabian Washington have a hold on the two starting spots. Samari Rolle is penciled in as the top nickel back.
But behind them, the depth chart is far from finalized.
On the league-mandated 53-man regular-season roster, there are only so many spots the Ravens can allocate to the position. Last year, Baltimore finished with only five cornerbacks on their active list and one on the practice squad.
Certainly, one can make assumptions as to the chances of a few other corners farther down the totem pole. Looking at the numbers, some are just better than others.
Head coach John Harbaugh calls it a positive problem. He thinks the Ravens will have some difficult decisions to make during the preseason when they are making their cuts.
"The problem is they don't let you have too many," Harbaugh said. "We've probably got more corners than can make our team, if you look at it. But that's a good problem to have."
Here is a breakdown of the Ravens' current crop of corners who will be competing for a spot in training camp:
2008:In his only season with the Atlanta Falcons, Foxworth started 10 of 14 games, totaling one interception and 11 passes defensed. He also added 38 tackles.
Forecast:Foxworth, 26, had to adjust to the Ravens' attacking style of defense when he first arrived in Baltimore, but it was evident that he could do it as minicamps progressed. The 5-foot-11, 180-pounder was healthy for all Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and looked quick and aggressive by the time practices broke for training camp. He'll be an asset in Baltimore's defensive backfield for a long time.
2008:Washington missed four contests with shoulder and toe injuries, but when he was in there, the speedy corner excelled. Acquired in a trade with the Oakland Raiders, Washington notched 34 stops and one interception. More importantly, he stepped up when tested, as he led the team with 19 deflected passes.
Forecast:Washington is using his time before training camp to recover from neck and shoulder injuries that required surgery. He could not participate in OTAs, but worked diligently on his rehab so he will be ready by late July.
2008:Rolle was critical in stepping up for the Ravens when Chris McAlister was placed on Injured Reserve (knee) midway through the season. The 12-year veteran started 10 games and bounced back from a rough 2007 campaign. Rolle posted three interceptions, 13 passes defensed and forced a fumble.
Forecast:The Ravens may have released Rolle earlier this offseason, but the four-year contract he signed means that he is still in the plans. The deal is front-loaded, however, so that may mean Rolle will only be in Baltimore for one. Still, Rolle provides a proven backup should either starter go down.
2008:The former Tennessee Titan was an able backup for his former team, totaling 31 tackles despite only starting two contests. Carr was a major contributor on special teams, as well. He returned 32 punts for an average of 10.1 yards and was fourth in the NFL with a 28.1-yard average on kickoff returns.
Forecast:Carr can make this team based on his special teams performance, but he figures to play from scrimmage, too. To do that, he will have to challenge Rolle at the nickel.
2008:Walker made his reputation in Baltimore as a hard-nosed, brash player who won't back down from anyone. The former Green Bay Packer saw action in a career-high 15 games and set career highs with 33 tackles and 14 passes defensed. Walker became the Ravens' primary nickel when Rolle and Washington started.
Forecast:Walker's status is questionable. He will challenge Rolle for the nickel spot, as well, but he may have to prove himself on special teams – which he has done in the past – to show that the Ravens should keep him on the 53. Walker looked good in minicamps, but he had some rust when he was out there because he spent the first part of OTAs recovering from shoulder surgery.
2008:Martin was solely a special teamer for Baltimore in 2008, and he only did that for four games, totaling one special teams stop before a shoulder injury landed him on Injured Reserve.
Forecast:The former sixth-round draft pick was well-liked because of his effort and energy on the field, plus he is a good character guy in the locker room. But he has a tough battle in front of him, mainly because of the numbers situation. He needs to make a few big plays – both in the secondary and on special teams – in training camp to make the roster. Martin played well in minicamps starting opposite Foxworth with many other corners injured, though.
2008:"E.O." played in nine contests, but mainly on special teams, where he totaled five tackles. Oglesby did also manage four tackles on defense.
Forecast:Oglesby has bounced off and on the Ravens' roster in the past, and this will be another tough year for him. He will fight for that fifth or sixth cornerback spot and could earn it by adopting the Martin plan – making a few defensive plays and separating himself on special teams.
Rookie Lardarius Webb
2008:Webb was a safety at tiny Nicholls State, but the Ravens liked his athleticism and nose for the football. Teams routinely threw away from him, but he was still prolific. Webb earned Division I-AA All-American honors from the Associated Press, Sports Network and AFCA after tying a career high with 55 tackles, seven passes defensed, three sacks and two interceptions. He also led the team in all-purpose yards (661), returning 16 kickoffs for 472 yards and one touchdown and 10 punts for 152 yards and a score.
Forecast:As a third-round draft pick, Webb all but makes the cut barring any major letdowns. That shouldn't be the case, as Webb looked excellent in OTAs. He may have been a little lost at times, but his speed and playmaking ability were evident. And, Webb's value as a returner candidate only elevates his stock.