*"The Competition" is a BaltimoreRavens.com series that will break down every position leading up to training camp. *
Ed Reed (5-11, 200 pounds, 11th season): While the offseason talk with Reed has focused on whether he'll actually play this season, the Ravens are confident that Reed will be in uniform this fall and that he'll continue to perform at a high level. The future Hall of Famer is still one of the best safeties in the game, and is a cornerstone of the Ravens defense. Barring any changes to his mindset, expect Reed to return this fall and continue to play as the clear leader of the secondary.
Bernard Pollard (6-1, 224, seventh season): The hard-hitting strong safety was a perfect fit in Baltimore last year, and the expectations remain high for the seven-year veteran. He is a valuable component of the pass defense and also stuffing the run, as he's able to play up on the line to bring down running backs. Now that he has a year with the Ravens under his belt, Pollard will continue to take on a leadership role as a key member of the defense.
Emmanuel Cook (5-10, 202, third season): The Ravens signed Cook late last season after he was cut by the Jets, and he primarily played special teams during his seven games in Baltimore. He's expected to continue his role on special teams, but could also see a little more time at safety after Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura both left in free agency. During the recent Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp, Cook took some reps with the first-team defense with Reed absent, and he will likely challenge for a backup safety role during training camp.
Sean Considine (6-0, 212, eighth season):The Ravens added Considine as a veteran special-teams player, who will also challenge for playing time as a reserve safety. Considine has worked as a strong safety in many of the offseason practices. He is coming off a difficult 2011 season, where he was cut by the Carolina Panthers after four games and then picked up by the Arizona Cardinals. He has a history with Head Coach John Harbaugh dating back to their time together in Philadelphia, and the Ravens are hoping for Considine to be a positive veteran influence on special teams and defense.
Christian Thompson (6-0, 211, South Carolina State): The fourth-round pick is expected to compete with Cook for a reserve safety spot behind Reed. Thompson has worked with the first and second teams in offseason practices and shown some flashes of potential. One of the highlights of OTAs was when Thompson intercepted a pass and lateralled it to a teammate on the return-for-touchdown, reminiscent of something that Reed would do.
Omar Brown (5-11, 195, Marshall):The Ravens signed Brown as an undrafted free agent, after a standout college career with the Thundering Herd where he was a first-team All-Conference USA performer last year. Brown will likely have to earn his way on to the roster through special teams.
Cyhl Quarles (6-3, 210, Wake Forest):Quarles was also signed as an undrafted free agent. He led Wake Forest in tackles (101) during his senior season and shows promise as a big defensive back who can defend the pass and also play the run. Like Brown, he will likely have to use special teams as his way onto the roster.
The competition for starting jobs is pretty much settled here, as Reed and Pollard are the clear-cut starters heading into the season – barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Behind them, however, is much less clarity. Cook and Considine have veteran experience and seem to have the edge on the backup jobs heading into training camp, but the rookies are certainly expected to challenge them.
Last season the Ravens had four safeties regularly in the rotation, and that could be the case again this season, making the battle for the No. 3 and No. 4 safety spots a tightly-contested race. For rookies like Brown and Quarles, they are likely not only fighting for an opportunity to get into the rotation, but more importantly for a chance to make the roster.