xml:space="preserve">

The Ravens got a taste of life without Ed Reed in 2009 when the All-World safety missed four games in the season's second half. Now, with Reed starting on the PUP list after major hip surgery, they'll have to make due without his services for at least the first six weeks of the season.

This is a reality they started to plan for in 2008 when they drafted Tom Zbikowski in the third round and Haruki Nakamura in the sixth. Those two youngsters, now in their third seasons, will both play big roles in 2010, starting tonight against the Jets.

Advertisement

Zbikowski will start for Reed at free safety after beating out veteran Ken Hamlin, a former Pro Bowl player, for the job in training camp. Zbikowski made 17 tackles and intercepted two passes while filling in for Reed in 2009, but the Ravens went 2-2 in those games.

The former Golden Domer was one of the team's most improved players in training camp, though, and his physicality will come in handy against the "ground and pound" Jets.

Meanwhile, Nakamura, a reserve safety and special-teams whiz, will play a lot in tonight's game because the Ravens are dressing only three cornerbacks (Fabian Washington, Chris Carr and newcomer Josh Wilson). The Ravens like using Nakamura in nickel and dime sets anyway because he always seems to be buzzing around the football. Well, that, and because Ravens coach John Harbaugh has a bit of a man crush on him.

Of course, neither of these two is as talented as Reed -- I mean, the guy is a Hall-of-Fame lock -- but the Ravens feel comfortable with these two, along with hard-hitting strong safety Dawan Landry, as key pieces of their defensive backfield in the future.

As far as 2010 goes, the Ravens' depth will allow them to get by during Reed's injury-related exodus from the football field. As long as they get the ol' ballhawk back for the playoff run, they should be OK.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement