The Ravens have already faced the Denver Broncos’ trio of Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker, and prolific wide receiver duos like Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb of the Green Bay Packers and A.J. Green and Marvin Jones of the Cincinnati Bengals.
But as they get ready for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, the Ravens’ defensive backs are preparing for what may be their most unique challenge this year. No wide receiver combination has combined for more yards than the Bears’ Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery who have totaled 107 catches for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns.
And no wide receiver combination may be as big and physical than Marshall and Jeffery who use their size, strength and athleticism to get position on defensive backs and win battles in the air.
“Those guys are what, both like 6-4 and 230 pounds?,” Ravens cornerback Corey Graham asked. “It’s a different matchup. They’ve got a good group of guys out there. They can go up and get the ball. They high point it and make a lot of plays for their quarterback. It’s a different challenge for us but we look forward to it.”
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Marshall, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, is listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds while Jeffery, a second-year pro, is 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds. Meanwhile, the Ravens’ two starting cornerbacks – Jimmy Smith and Lardarius Webb - are 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, and 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds respectively.
If the Ravens move Webb to the slot, where he had a lot of success last week against the Bengals, that could leave Graham (6-foot, 196 pounds) on the outside matched up against either Marshall or Jeffery.
“I love all challenges but this is definitely one of those games,” said Smith whose improvement has coincided with his decision to play a more physical, pressing style. “We definitely see this as one of our tougher challenges this season. What you see on film with these guys, they go and get the ball. They attack the ball. They have great hands, both of them, and the tight end [Martellus Bennett] as well. It’s
going to be a tough job trying to get the ball loose from them and make some plays on them.”
The Ravens’ secondary is coming off arguably its best game of the season as they picked off the Bengals’ Andy Dalton three times and forced 27 incompletions last week. But as good as Green and Jones are, they don’t necessarily present the physical challenges that the Ravens will face Sunday.
“You can watch the film and say, ‘They have good coverage on this guy,’ but it doesn’t really matter.’ These guys can go up and get the ball,” said Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees. “That is the biggest problem that you face with them. When it comes down to a situation of one-on-one back there, they are tough to handle.”
On Wednesday, Marshall, who has 60 catches for 786 yards and eight touchdowns, was effusive in his praise of both Webb and Smith. While appreciative, Webb knows that Marshall’s words won’t mean much come Sunday.
“That’s tactics. You know he’s going to say those things,” Webb said. “He’s a great one. I’ve been against him a couple of times and he does a lot of great things. I appreciate the compliments and everything but it’s going to be a competitive matchup this week and I’m going to have a lot on my hands with him.”