When the Ravens' overhauled secondary returns from the bye next week, a huge challenge looms ahead down in New Orleans.
They will have to deal with a matchup nightmare: covering Saints All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham.
The 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham is one of the most prolific tight ends in recent NFL history with 357 career receptions for 4,457 yards and 48 touchdowns. The former University of Miami basketball player is in the midst of another strong season with 56 catches for 594 yards and seven touchdowns, and he remains quarterback Drew Brees' top downfield option.
The Ravens' defensive coaching staff is spending time this week game-planning for the Nov. 24 matchup against Graham and the Saints. One option could be bracket coverage involving rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley and a safety.
"He's a challenge, first of all, because of the size," said Ravens secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo, who was the Saints' defensive coordinator in 2012. "He has a great, wide catch radius. Drew knows how to get it to him. What I see on tape and what we've watched so far is exactly what I expected and what I had seen when I was a part of that organization. That's a good football team with a lot of weapons and a guy that makes the whole thing go that knows exactly what he's doing."
Graham, who was signed to a four-year, $40 million contract in July, has the leaping ability of an NBA power forward and the soft hands of a wide receiver. What he doesn't have, according to Spagnuolo, is a superior golf game.
"I'm laughing, because we had a golf outing down there in New Orleans, and Jimmy and I were partnered up," Spagnuolo said. "He's not a great golfer, but he's a great football player. So, I was hoping maybe he was playing a little more football like he had golfed, but that isn't the case."