Ozzie Newsome didn't put anyone at ease over state of secondary

After leaving the Ravens news conference Tuesday afternoon, major concerns still remain about the team's poor secondary.

There was a search for a nugget, something to suggest that this team was going to get better. But the best that general manager Ozzie Newsome could do was talk about the return of cornerback Jimmy Smith from injury.



''As we look at it now, getting Jimmy back healthy [foot injury] is going to be very big for us. That's a good start," Newsome said. "Having Lardarius [Webb] go through a season where he's not rehabbing, he's just getting himself ready to play, and because of the injuries, we were able to pick up Rashaan [Melvin] and [Chris] Greenwood, some other young guys that we have in our system right now that should be able to get on the field and help."

Yippee. No. 22 returns. Betcha Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown and the Cincinnati Bengals' A.J. Green are losing a lot of sleep. Smith is the best the Ravens have, but he has only played one full season in his four years with the team. Forgive me for not getting too excited.

And there was no jumping for joy either when Newsome talked about Webb, another cornerback, having a full off season to work after recovering from neck and back injuries.

Shoot, if he doesn't agree to a new contract in the next couple of months, Webb might not be on the Ravens' roster in 2015. So this offseason, the No. 1 priority has to be finding another top cornerback and possibly a safety.

On Tuesday, Newsome talked about how the Ravens' No. 1 priority last offseason was improving the offensive line and they achieved that goal. But he forgot to mention that he also talked about improving the Ravens' defense, especially in the secondary.

Remember this Oz: "No. 1, not having the ability to get off the field cost us maybe three or four ballgames," Newsome said last January. "I think we recognized that. To improve on that, I think, No. 1, you have to start with the guys you've got. We've got to get those guys better and put those guys in position to make plays.

"On the other side of that, I talked about a free safety [and] maybe getting a free safety that can be a playmaker."


The Ravens finished No. 24 in the league in pass defense last season, allowing 248.7 yards per game. There were no playmakers in the secondary because if the Ravens had one, just one, they might have beaten the New England Patriots, especially in the fourth quarter when they couldn't get Tom Brady off the field.

So Tuesday, Newsome talked about a tight end being an integral part of this offense. He blew smoke about "being the best team they could be" and putting together a strong 53-man roster, as if this was some new philosophy in the offseason.

How about that quality cornerback or safety?

Newsome isn't getting off the hook this offseason. It's time to deliver.

There would be more confidence if the Ravens had a recent record of success in drafting defensive backs. Since 1995-96, they have drafted 10 cornerbacks and five have played well. But they haven't selected a good one since Smith in 2011.

As far as safeties, the Ravens have selected 15 since moving to Baltimore from Cleveland, and seven have seen considerable playing time. But the last two decent ones were Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura, both taken in the 2008 draft.


Rookie safety Terrence Brooks struggled at the position last season and is trying to rebound from a knee injury. Strong safety Matt Elam, the team's first-round pick in 2013, has been disappointing. As far as the recent cornerbacks, most have struggled with ball-awareness skills, including Smith.

"I think Jimmy is going to be a really good ballplayer. He got hurt, and I think he was playing at a very high level when he suffered that injury in Cincinnati," Newsome said. "Matt Elam has to be a better football player for us next year. He has to be. Terrence was a guy that has showed flashes, it'll be tough for him to be ready to go at the beginning of the season, but he should be able to help us out coming off [the physically-unable-to-perform list].

"We were able to go out and get Will Hill, who we think is going to be a guy that's going to have a very good role on the team. That's just, to me, that's just the basics. We can build from that. If you start to add to that, as we will do this offseason, then I think we will be able to sit here next year and say our secondary is better."

Newsome addressed some other players as well, but that was more out of respect than about how they actually would help the team. Cornerbacks like Melvin and Anthony Levine and safety Darian Stewart are stop-gap players, able to contribute more on special teams than in regular defense.

The Ravens can help themselves possibly through free agency by obtaining the Green Bay Packers' Davon House or the San Francisco 49ers' Chris Culliver. And they might be able to select a top cornerback in the first round of the draft like Michigan State's Trae Waynes or Wake Forest's Kevin Johnson.

Regardless, though, the Ravens' can't keep the status quo. They did that basically last offseason and even in training camp when the injuries started to mount.

On Tuesday, Newsome said the Ravens secondary would be just as good as the pass rush. That's true to some degree. But in big games against quality teams, outside linebackers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil were never dominant and the secondary got exposed.

The Ravens don't need a repeat of last season. They should have learned.

Right, Mr. Newsome?