Dawan Landry was such a pleasant surprise as a rookie with the Ravens last season that he received the biggest bonus the NFL provides through its performance-based pay subsidy, more than doubling his base salary of $275,000.
A fifth-round draft choice out of Georgia Tech, Landry beat out Gerome Sapp for a starting safety job and had 89 tackles and five interceptions, the most of any rookie last season, tying Ed Reed's franchise record for a first-year player.
The circumstances for Landry this season have been a lot different, and so have the results, at least those that can be measured on the stat sheet. Although he leads the Ravens' secondary and is sixth overall on the team with 52 tackles, Landry has yet to make an interception.
It is partly the result of being without former Pro Bowl cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle for long stretches and partly because the defense is not putting the same kind of pressure on opposing quarterbacks that it did last season.
"When you have guys like Samari and Chris out, it's more stressful on the safeties," said Reed, who leads the Ravens with five interceptions. "The plays might not reflect it, but he's playing a lot better than he did last year."
Landry sounds unconcerned.
"I take each and every week as a learning experience," Landry said. "I don't try to look at the stats. I'm just competing, playing hard. I'm just still trying to help my team win."
Ravens secondary coach Mark Carrier says going the first nine games without an interception doesn't mean Landry's play has been a disappointment.
"Dennis [Thurman, the other secondary coach] and I didn't go in having any expectations," Carrier said. "We expect him to play well within the framework of the defense and do his job to the best of his ability. Whatever happens from there happens; it's such a team-oriented sport, especially on the back end."
With the possible return of McAlister for the Ravens (4-5) against the Cleveland Browns (5-4) tomorrow at M&T; Bank Stadium after missing the past three games because of a knee injury and Rolle making strides toward returning next week after being out with an undisclosed illness, the Ravens' secondary might finally resemble the one Landry played in last season.
Landry doesn't use the depleted secondary as an excuse for why he doesn't seem to be making as many big plays.
Given more responsibility to make calls, Landry said he is progressing even though the statistics don't back it up.
"Last year, I made a lot of calls, but I was still the young guy back there," Landry said. "I knew what to do, but I wasn't as vocal. This year, I've had to be more vocal with the young guys out there. I don't feel any pressure by doing that."
Said Reed: "His communication has taken off. Last year was a little different because he was a little skeptical about what he wanted to do. It was me more making the calls. Now, I ask him a lot of the time on some things we should be doing."
Although Landry said he is critical of his performance - "I'm probably my own worst critic, and Coach Thurman and Coach Carrier can get into you pretty tough" - he doesn't think he should be measured solely on his number of interceptions.
If anything, Landry said, he is a better player now than a year ago based on the experience he brings to the field.
"Last year, we were winning a lot and we didn't see a lot of things, as opposed to this year with the losses, giving up big plays," Landry said. "You learn from mistakes. Last year, you didn't have as many mistakes because we were doing so well."
Notes -- While Reed returned to practice after missing Thursday's workout because of a sore back, McAlister sat out yesterday and was listed as questionable for Sunday. Reed is expected to play against the Browns. ... Tight end Todd Heap, who did not practice yesterday, is also listed as questionable.