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The Competition: Safeties


Heading into the first practice of training camp, will offer previews of each position, focusing on who will be fighting for playing time. Today, the safeties take the spotlight.


In safety Ed Reed, the Ravens boast one of the NFL's top defensive generals in their secondary.

The 2004 Defensive Player of the Year is one of the best ever at aligning the back end with his lightning-quick reads and strong communication skills.

Now, as the Ravens enter training camp, they're expecting much of the same from his top lieutenant.

Playing alongside a four-time Pro Bowler for his first two years in the league, Dawan Landry may have been overlooked at times. From what coaches in Baltimore have seen this offseason, that won't be happening in 2008.

"He has been tremendous this spring," said head coach John Harbaugh, who made a point to single Landry out after one minicamp practice. "He's made every single workout, hasn't missed a lift, hasn't missed a run, and when you watch him play out here, you see that he's game. He's playing fast, he's all over the field, and he's taking charge of that secondary back there."

The main difference in Landry's game since he stepped into the starting lineup as a rookie in 2006 points to his communication skills. Reed is typically the one that makes all the calls in the defensive backfield, but because he's been absent from all voluntary sessions, the signals fell on Landry's plate.

Taking charge as a big-hitting enforcer was always second nature for Landry, but leading vocally wasn't the easiest transition for the soft-spoken Ama, La., native.

"With those guys not here right now, I take it upon myself to communicate with the guys," Landry said, noting veteran cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, as well. "With a lot of young guys around, I have to put that responsibility on my shoulders."

Communication was key for the Ravens in 2007, as injuries riddled seemingly every cornerback on the roster. But while five different players started games at corner, Landry and Reed were the constants, helming the secondary for all 16 games.

Landry made the most of his time, racking up an eye-opening 91 tackles, adding seven passes defensed.

Defensive coordinator Rex Ryan hopes the crash-course built to develop the former fifth-round draft pick can build Landry into an even more prolific defender.

"He's really elevated his game on the practice field," Ryan explained. "From a communication standpoint, that's always been something that he waits for Ed to communicate, but now he's able to do that.

"We actually used to force him with the second group to make those calls so he would actually verbalize things to his guys and hand signal and all that stuff. Now, he's like an old pro out there, and we expect great things from him. He's going to be a stud."

Here is a breakdown of the safeties on the Ravens' roster (in no particular order):

Ed Reed

2007:Reed was named to his fourth Pro Bowl and third All-Pro team after finishing the season with 45 tackles, 13 passes defensed and a team-leading seven interceptions. He also electrified Ravens fans with a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown in the season opener.

Forecast:There isn't much to divine from Reed's game. He is, after all, the top safety in the game.

Dawan Landry

2007:Starting all 16 contests, Landry was sixth on the team with 91 stops, seven passes defensed and a sack.

Forecast:Many expect Landry to have a breakout season. The 6-foot, 220-pound bruiser is coming into his own as a playmaker under the tutelage of Reed.

Jim Leonhard

2007:With the Buffalo Bills, he saw action in 13 games - missing three games with a calf injury - including a career-best six starts. He recorded a career-high 51 tackles, including 40 solo and his first-career interception, as well as three passes defensed and five special teams tackles.

Forecast: Leonhard is a scrappy player in the mold that Harbaugh likes. He could make the active roster over one of the two rookies, who could be placed on the practice squad, if he has a solid showing with the second-team secondary.

Tom Zbikowski

2007:The third-round selection was a semi-finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's top defensive back, as a senior at Notre Dame. Zbikowski ranked fifth on the squad with a career-high 80 tackles and one sack.

Forecast:Zbikowski must do a good job of absorbing Ryan's defensive system in training camp, something that is never easy for a rookie safety. His tenacity can catch him out of position at times, and he needs to show he can play just as much with his head.

Haruki Nakamura

2007:Nakamura finished his career at Cincinnati as a unanimous 1st-team All-Big East Conference selection, starting all 13 games and leading the team with a career-high 95 tackles. He also notched four interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Forecast:Nakamura is a cerebral player that gives 100 percent effort on the field. He showed that he has potential in the secondary during minicamps, but could be just as big of an asset on special teams.

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