The Ravens secondary couldn't catch a break last year.
The problems started early when veteran cornerback Aaron Ross tore his Achilles running a conditioning test in training camp before even stepping onto the field. The next day, Lardarius Webb suffered a back injury that would linger nearly the entire season. Midway through the year, top cornerback Jimmy Smith went down with a foot injury that ended his breakout season. Asa Jackson and Tramain Jacobs both landed on IR.
Even Danny Gorrer, who the Ravens signed to replenish the unit with all the injuries, was lost to a torn ACL. By the time the 2014 season ended, five cornerbacks had been placed on injured reserve.
The Ravens paid the price for all those injuries. In a divisional-round playoff loss to the Patriots, quarterback Tom Brady threw for 367 yards and three scores to overcome a pair of 14-point deficits.
As the Ravens look to take a step forward next season, improving the secondary is one of the top items on the priority list.
"I think there's nowhere to go but up," CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora said. "Jimmy's healthy; that's obviously huge. Webb will be healthier and more productive and hopefully durable for the Ravens' sake."
Count Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti as one who believes the unit will make significant strides by getting their starters back on the field. The Ravens never played a game last year with Smith and Webb fully healthy, and that took its toll.
"We were decimated with injuries," Bisciotti said. "I know that you all know that Webby is a better player than he was in the first half of last year. And he tried his hardest, and it's hard to play with lower back pain. He struggled through and I thought he got very good at the end. But then by that time, Jimmy was down and Asa was [on injured reserve]."
In addition to getting the cornerbacks healthy, ESPN's John Clayton also pointed to questions at safety. Former first-round pick Matt Elam struggled in his second season, and the Ravens had a rotating cast of starters alongside Will Hill.
"The safety position is kind of uncertain," Clayton said.
In addition to having Elam rebound next year, the Ravens also have high hopes for last year's third-round pick Terrence Brooks. He will start the year on the physically unable to perform list after tearing his ACL last year, but he could step into a larger role depending on his recovery.
"You saw that they had two reasonably high picks that so far – one by injury and one by play – have not been able to work out," Clayton said. "You hope that one of them comes through. Just because a guy doesn't do well in Year One or Year Two, doesn't mean that he's not going to do well in year three. You hope that one of those two guys can step up and help the void because if not, this is an era right now where it's harder and harder to get safeties out of the draft."
The Ravens may turn to the draft to help patch up the secondary. Bisciotti discussed the possibility of picking up a cornerback in the first round to inject some quality youth into the spot, and that could help make a significant difference along with the return of healthy* *players.
"I don't rule them out doing something in the draft at one of those positions," La Canfora said. "I don't get nearly as panicked about that part of the team as others. I think they'll be better there."