One of the more pleasant surprises of Ravens training camp thus far has been the play of cornerback Corey Graham. Signed to a two-year deal by the organization in March after he turned last season into a Pro Bowl campaign as a special-teams ace, the former Chicago Bear has impressed the coaching staff enough to join rookie Asa Jackson as the next tandem of cornerbacks after Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith.
The one player who is least shocked by Graham’s performances is Graham himself.
“I’ve always known that I can play corner in this league,” he said after Tuesday’s practice at the team’s training complex in Owings Mills. “It’s not like this is the first time I’ve gone out there and had an opportunity to play. I was fortunate to start 10 games [in five seasons] when I was in Chicago and if you ask me, I felt like I should’ve played a lot more there. So it’s not something where I didn’t believe in myself or didn’t think I could do it. I always knew I could do it. I’m just glad that I’m finally getting the chance to show someone else that I can do it.”
Graham, who registered a career-best three interceptions last year, has caught at least four interceptions in camp. His most recent takeaway occurred Monday when he wasn’t fooled on a play-action call and ranged from the left side of the field to the right side to pick off a deep ball thrown by quarterback Tyrod Taylor intended for wide receiver LaQuan Williams.
“I think I’ve been doing alright,” Graham said. “I’ve picked up on the defense fairly well. I pretty much know what I’m doing out there. When you know what you’re doing, you can play a little faster and you’re able to make some plays. This defense is one of those defenses that puts you in position to make a lot of plays. If you catch the ones that you’re supposed to, you can make a lot of plays.”
Unlike his time with the Bears and their Cover-2 scheme, Graham said he’s been playing a lot more man defense with the Ravens. There may not be a deep safety to back him up, but Graham said he’s fine with that.
“I’m so used to playing Cover-2, but I kind of like this,” he said. “You get an opportunity to go up there and get your hands on guys and things like that. I wasn’t able to do that a lot in Chicago, and I feel like that’s one of my stronger suits. So I’m actually glad that it fits pretty well with what I can do.”
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees said that one of things that has impressed him about Graham is his versatility. Graham has played cornerback and nickel back and is adding safety to his repertoire.
"You've always got to have those guys that are flexible, like [linebacker] Albert McClellan was flexible last year and went outside to inside backer," Pees said Saturday. "You always try to have those guys that are the hybrid guys. That guy, really, I think has had a real good camp so far. It's early, but he's had a good camp."
Graham said he was not given assurances that he would play cornerback when he signed with the organization, but an opportunity to prove himself. That’s all he’s wanted.
“I felt like it was time for me to go somewhere else and let some new eyes see me and maybe get a chance to go out there and do things,” he said. “I felt like if I stayed in Chicago, my role would have been the same no matter what. So I’m just happy that I’m getting out here and showing people what I can do. I want to continue to get better and hopefully, I’ll get a chance to play. That’s all I can ask for.”