Backup cornerback Chykie Brown built a reputation for reliability late last season, and the Ravens now regard him as an ascending young player.
A speedy 2011 fifth-round draft pick from Texas, Brown recorded a career-high 17 tackles, seven pass deflections and a dozen special-teams tackles last season as the Ravens won the Super Bowl.
"I see how NFL games go, and it built a lot of confidence in me," Brown said. "I feel like I can play with anybody now. My strengths are my recovery speed, my ability to play press coverage.
"I'm a cornerback who's physical and can tackle, too. I don't set no limits on myself. I want to help the team get back to where we were last year."
Brown should give the Ravens solid depth behind their top three cornerbacks: Lardarius Webb, Corey Graham and Jimmy Smith.
He's competing with veteran Chris Johnson for substitution package duties.
"Chykie Brown is in a situation where he's sitting there as the fourth corner right now, and that's a pretty important spot," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's going to play a lot of football for us, both defensively and special teams. It's up to him what he does with his career from here on out.
"Both of those two guys [Brown and Johnson] give us so much as the corners after the top three guys. I think they're both starting-caliber corners, talent-wise."
In the playoffs, Brown had nine tackles and two pass deflections. He had a career-high four pass deflections in the regular season against the New York Giants.
"Chykie is playing awesome," strong safety James Ihedigbo said. "He's really coming into his own with his ability to play man-to-man and his knowledge of the defense."
Learning on the job
Rookie fullback Kyle Juszczyk didn't have a sterling debut as a lead blocker Saturday, stonewalled often by blitzing linebackers and safeties on isolation plays.
The most frequent issue for the former Harvard standout was not getting low enough to create leverage.
Harbaugh sees positive signs, though, from Juszczyk, the only fullback on the roster with Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach still unsigned and remaining in contact with general manager Ozzie Newsome.
"Kyle did really well," Harbaugh said. "As a fullback, I thought the last few days he did a really good job. He was smashing up in there. His forehead is all scraped up, his neck is all scraped up. But he had a lot of great collisions in there.
"Technique-wise, he's got to learn to set his base a little more, and roll his hips a little bit better. That's something you learn at that position. Even Vonta told me that was the hardest thing for him to learn early on. But he's big, he's athletic, and he's very willing."
With tight end Dennis Pitta declared out for the season with a fractured, dislocated hip, Juszczyk is expected to operate in a multi-faceted role that includes tight end and H-back duties. In the Ivy League, Juszczyk caught 125 career passes for 1,576 yards and 22 touchdowns.
"He's very, very versatile," Harbaugh said. "He plays the fullback, but he plays I would say more the H-back-type tight end role. So, he's your move guy.
"He's not going to be your guy on the line of scrimmage knocking anybody off the ball. He's 250 pounds. He's your move guy, he can kick out, he can get up on the linebacker or defensive back, and he can catch passes."
Leaping for a high pass in the end zone Saturday while being guarded by Ihedigbo, Pitta's crash landing cost him his season.
From Ihedigbo's vantage point, there wasn't much contact while they jostled for the football.
"We just got tangled up," Ihedigbo said. "It was a tough situation, it wasn't really a collision. It was the way he landed. It was one of those freak accidents, going for a jump ball and you land awkwardly. I've been praying for him every day and wish Dennis a speedy recovery."
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