In the past five days, the Ravens' top cornerback (Lardarius Webb) went down with a back injury that is believed to be minor. The perceived favorite for the No. 3 corner back job (Chykie Brown) has been unable to keep up and now he's dealing with a minor hamstring issue. Another veteran candidate (Aaron Ross) sustained a season-ending Achilles' injury while potential contributor (Dominique Franks) took several days to pass the conditioning test.
If the team’s depth at cornerback wasn't a major issue before training camp began, it certainly is now.
There have been some positive developments, too. Asa Jackson looks much more confident as he enters his third season. Undrafted free agent corners Deji Olatoye, Sammy Seamster and Tramain Jacobs have acclimated themselves well. But the more I watch what the Ravens do have at the position, the more I wonder if the team’s No. 3 cornerback is even on the roster right now. There’s not an obvious answer on the free agent market though I’m sure that the Ravens have already identified teams with a potential cornerback surplus.
Whether it’s a waiver claim, trade or signing a free agent, the Ravens will probably have to make another move to improve depth at cornerback at some point. They are just one injury away from a potential concern becoming a full-fledged problem.
** Much is made about Steve Smith's fiery and feisty demeanor but he did something subtle in last Thursday’s practice that showed great leadership. Smith was unable to haul in an end zone pass in which he was defended tightly by Chykie Brown. Smith angrily clapped his hands and started to head back toward the huddle but then he reversed course and went back to congratulate Brown for his defense and to talk about the play.
It was just a small gesture, but Brown had been getting beat all day and that sort of thing can help a struggling player’s confidence.
** The addition of several new coaches has resulted in some new drills at training camp and there is a common denominator to many of them: ball security. It’s not that the Ravens didn’t focus on that in the past, but it just seems like an even greater emphasis is being placed on catching, securing and then holding onto the ball in this camp.
Regardless of what they are doing, the running backs constantly have somebody behind them punching and pulling at the ball. The wide receivers do this drill where one guy will stand in the middle trying to catch a ball thrown to him while several other receivers surround him and pull at his arm and try to slap the ball away.
The Ravens’ receivers dropped a lot of passes in the various offseason minicamps, though the group has been better in that area early in training camp.
** I was skeptical of the Ravens giving Rolando McClain another chance this offseason because McClain had been out of football for a while and he wasn’t playing well before the Oakland Raiders released him. But safety Will Hill, who the Ravens picked up last week after his release from the New York Giants, is a different story.
Hill is a talented guy who graded out as one of the better safeties in the league last year. Hill has to serve a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, the third drug-related infraction of his brief NFL career. If he stays out of trouble, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Hill is starting at safety for the Ravens at some point later this season.
The problem is Hill has never been able to stay out of trouble, not in the NFL, not in college. With all the legal issues that the Ravens have had in recent months, I was a little surprised that they took on another guy with significant character questions. The timing of the signing, one day after Ray Rice’s two-game suspension was announced, was particularly curious.
But unlike the other guys, I’d have to assume it’s “one strike and you’re out” with Hill.