Responding to a question about whether rookie safety Terrence Brooks could be an option in the nickel back role, Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees' answer probably could have applied to several positions.
"It's an option. Everybody is an option right now," Pees said. "We're just trying to find guys. We're kind of moving guys around a little bit. We have two more games really to kind of experiment with where we want to put guys and see where they fit getting ready for the season."
The Ravens will play their second preseason game Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys. While much of the attention is on Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's first game since undergoing back surgery in December, Pees will be looking for ways to augment the Ravens' depth on defense.
Since the eve of training camp, the Ravens have lost three potential key reserves to season-ending injuries — cornerback Aaron Ross (torn Achilles) and defensive ends Brent Urban (torn anterior cruciate ligament) and Kapron Lewis-Moore (torn Achilles).
Ross, who won two Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants, was going to get an opportunity to compete against Chykie Brown and Asa Jackson for the No.3 cornerback role. Urban and Lewis-Moore were expected to serve as the top backups to veteran Chris Canty and inject youth and athleticism into the defensive line rotation.
"It's really tough when you lose two guys at the same position, basically two young guys that we thought had a lot of promise," Pees said. "Hopefully, we'll rehab them and get them back for the future. But certainly what you're looking at is a spot that was at one time one of the deepest spots that we had on the [depth] chart now becomes a little less. What we've got to do is move some guys around, experiment with some guys, see what we can do and go from there. We have to take the guys that we have."
Third-year defensive lineman DeAngelo Tyson has been working behind Canty, and Pees didn't rule out moving rush linebacker Pernell McPhee inside in the right matchups. The challenge, Pees said, is not moving around too many guys, taking them away from what they do best and weakening the team at other spots.
"[We'll] try to move as few as we can, but at the same time, we can't sit here and just say everything is going to be OK," Pees said. "We're just going to have to experiment with some guys."
A case can be made that the situation at cornerback is even more dire. Ross was the first to go down, but then the Ravens lost their most accomplished corner, Lardarius Webb, to a lower-back injury, and Jackson to a bad ankle. Webb could miss the rest of the preseason and Jackson's return is not imminent.
Making matters worse, Brown has been shaky throughout camp and Dominique Franks, another veteran brought in this offseason, has taken a while to get acclimated to the Ravens defense. Behind them are journeyman Marrio Norman and rookie undrafted free-agent cornerbacks Tramain Jacobs, Sammy Seamster and Deji Olatoye.
"They can say inexperience, but I feel like we're pushing each other and we're making each other better every day," said Ravens second-year safety Matt Elam. "So, I feel like the experience won't really matter when game time comes, because the way we work in practice and the competition we're going against with our offense, I feel like they give us a great preparation for going in and playing on Sundays."
The Ravens are trying to add a cornerback either via trade or free agency, but right now, Pees is preparing to play with what he has, and that's why safeties such as Brooks and Darian Stewart have gotten looks in the nickel back role.
"The first game or two games is kind of play everybody and see what we got and after that, we have to start honing in," Pees said. "We'll move a bunch of guys around, but Terrence is playing well, he's playing hard."
In the Ravens' 23-3 preseason-opening victory over the San Francisco 49ers last week, Pees saw plenty that he liked. The Ravens held the 49ers scoreless for the final 56 minutes of the game. They forced three turnovers, held the 49ers to 2-of-9 on third downs and allowed just 187 total yards.
But six days later, Pees still had a bad taste in his mouth after his first-team defense allowed Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers to march 66 yards on seven plays on their first drive and get inside the Ravens 10-yard line. He took some solace in the fact that his defense stuffed the 49ers on second- and third-and-short as San Francisco ultimately settled for Phil Dawson's 25-yard field goal.
But to get to that point, the Ravens blew containment and allowed rookie running back Carlos Hyde to rush three times for 34 yards.
"We have to start faster," Pees said. "That's our first unit out there, and we did some things that we just cannot do. The good thing is when things like that happened, it happened in a game where it doesn't harm you and the good thing is we got them stopped. There was a negative in there and there was a positive in there. But we've got to play better against the first unit, especially against the run."
Pees said he felt his defense was over-hyped at the start of the game. On Saturday, they'll get another opportunity against a high-powered offense that features Romo, running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten.
"You want to get your mistakes out of your system now," said Ravens strong-side linebacker Elvis Dumervil. "That's the good thing about the preseason games. It's the time to fine-tune things and experiment and get everything right."
Baltimore Sun reporter Aaron Wilson contributed to this article.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun