Shorthanded in the secondary because of injuries to three of their top cornerbacks, the Ravens shuffled their personnel in some unconventional, effective configurations against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday night.
Missing Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb and Asa Jackson, the Ravens had safety Anthony Levine occasionally play outside at cornerback. He held his own against Redskins star wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was targeted twice for no receptions.
Levine had never played cornerback before in his career.
"I'm actually very proud," Levine said. "My first itme playing corner, I never played it in my life. I'm glad my coaches believed in me, trusted me to go out and just compete. That's all they told me, 'Anthony, go out and compete and have fun,' and that's what I did.
"They tell me wherever to go, I'm going to do it, and I'm going to do it with a smile on my face. Because every day I go in, I just work hard, compete and just try to make strides in my career."
The Ravens started Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks at cornerback with Smith dealing with a chest contusion, Webb still out with a lower back injury and Jackson just recently getting out of a walking boot after spraining his ankle.
"I thought Anthony played really well at corner," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "I thought Dominique played really well. So, corners all played really well."
The Ravens also utilized strong safety Matt Elam and free safety Terrence Brooks at the nickel back position. At one point, Levine was playing cornerback, Brooks was at nickel back and Elam was at strong safety, with Darian Stewart at free safety.
“We played a number of single-high [safety] defense, and that puts pressure on your corners,” Harbaugh said. “They held up. They competed against some very good receivers.”
Brooks, a speedy third-round draft pick from Florida State, opened some eyes with his top performance of the preseason.
He intercepted Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in the first quarter on a pass intended for Jackson, but it was called back because of a pass interference penalty on Franks.
Three plays later, Brooks fought through a stiff-arm attempt to shove Griffin out of bounds for a sack and a loss of 4 yards on third down. The Redskins were forced to settle for a 32-yard field goal by kicker Kai Forbath.
Brooks is the fastest of the Ravens’ safeties with a 4.42 time in the 40-yard dash. He is starting to react quicker after a slow initial adjustment to the NFL.
"It was a good experience," Brooks said. "I definitely saw a lot more things out there, and I'm starting to feel more comfortable with the NFL experience in general. To go out there and make the plays I did felt really good, and I feel I'm actually getting better with this defense.
"I feel I've been able to eliminate the clutter, so my attitude is just football. Just thinking too much [before] and not playing. I've learned you can't let things get to you and worry about things. My mindset now is they have to beat me. That's the thing I'm really harping on."
Griffin completed just five of eight passes for 20 yards and no touchdowns. He was intercepted once by Ravens rookie inside linebacker C.J. Mosley after middle linebacker Daryl Smith deflected the pass. Griffin finished with a 27.2 quarterback rating.
"Daryl did a great job breaking it up," Mosley said. "I just broke on the play and got the interception. My main job there was to catch it and try not to lose the ball."