Four games into the season, first-round draft pick Jimmy Smith hasn't played a down at cornerback, but the Ravens' depleted secondary has, with one notable exception in Tennessee, weathered the early passing storm.
With diminishing numbers in the back end Sunday against the Jets, cornerback Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams delivered a number of big plays behind the Ravens' relentless pass rush. On a night when the secondary was reduced to five functioning bodies, it was a sign of growth by both players.
Webb's third-quarter interception – and 73-yard return for a touchdown – sealed the victory for the Ravens after a fumble by Joe Flacco gave the Jets a chance to get back in the game.
Williams saw a barrage of passes – most to Plaxico Burress – and finished with eight tackles, one forced fumble and new confidence in his press coverage. Williams was big in either denying or containing the Jets' quick slant routes off the press. When he backed off the line, he got in trouble.
"At times, I was thinking about [preventing] big plays," he said later. "I didn't want to get double-moved and I got away from that press technique. And it showed on a couple plays where they had a couple catches. Every time I pressed, it was either incomplete or a bang-bang catch and I was right there. … I've got to have more confidence in the press and play more my game, the press game."
Three passes he surrendered all came when he played off: an out to Burress, a hitch that Derrick Mason spun into a 30-yard gain, and a hitch to Santonio Holmes that went for 22.
Webb also made some tough plays in close against Holmes.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was heartened by the play of both corners and the newly-signed Danny Gorrer, who had been cut at the end of camp.
"We were down to six defensive backs when [Tom Zbikowski] got the concussion," Harbaugh said. "So I'm impressed with the fact that those guys stepped up and played so well. We didn't play Chykie [Brown], so we were really playing with five at that point. And Danny Gorrer played very well.
"Webby obviously stepped up and played very well. I thought Cary Williams played like the starting corner that he is. I mean, he was in great position all day long, very competitive. When you take away the quick game … that makes a big difference because it takes away something that is tough to defend. And the corners have to do that for you."
Webb's interception was the fifth in 33 games for the Ravens, but it was the first one he returned for a touchdown. When he got back to the bench after the play, linebacker Ray Lewis gave him a word of encouragement.
"Ray said he could see me growing up," Webb, 25, said. "That meant a lot to me. I'm starting to see things [at cornerback] now, and like he said, I'm growing up at this position. I played safety in college, so this is my third year actually playing the position. I'm really learning it."
Webb credited Terrell Suggs and the Ravens' pass rush with setting up the interception.
The Ravens, meanwhile, will use the bye week to get healthier. Harbaugh said he expects Smith – out with an ankle injury since the opener – to return for the Oct. 16 game against Houston. The Ravens also signed cornerback Bryan McCann, 24, who was on the Ravens' roster briefly last season and played 11 games in two years with the Dallas Cowboys. McCann already has scored touchdowns on an interception and a punt return.
The Ravens scratched cornerback Chris Carr (hamstring) on Sunday, and placed Domonique Foxworth on season-ending injured reserve after two games. They have used Brown, a fifth-round pick, only on special teams so far.