Mike Preston: Weakness at cornerback opens door for two draft picks

The two cornerbacks the Ravens drafted have noticed the same weakness about the team as the opposition did last season.

But they're calling it an opportunity.


"If you can compete, you can take somebody's spot or you can rotate in," said Tavon Young, a fourth-round pick and cornerback out of Temple.

"I actually looked at the depth chart and I saw that there is a possibility I can make this team as a cornerback," said Maurice Canady, a sixth-round pick from Virginia. "Versatility is my best suit; playing defense or special teams."


The Ravens still have a glaring weakness at the cornerback position because they failed to obtain a proven one through free agency, and didn't work out an agreement during the draft with the Dallas Cowboys to take Florida State's Jalen Ramsey at the No. 4 position, one spot before he was selected by Jacksonville at No. 5. The Ravens had the No. 6 pick.

The Ravens could sign a cornerback before training camp opens in late July, but there are no players like Deion Sanders left on the free agent market. There are no Aqib Talibs either.

Former Bengals cornerback Leon Hall is available, and so is former Redskin Chris Culliver, but both have been slowed by injuries. Cary Williams is an option, but head coach John Harbaugh probably has no intention of bringing back the disgruntled former Raven.

It will be interesting to see if Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome brings in a cornerback soon. Shareece Wright is expected to start at one cornerback and he improved throughout the season, but is a risk after moving around so much in the league.

The Ravens are hoping Jimmy Smith, who will start opposite Wright, can return to the Pro Bowl form he showed early in the 2014 season before a foot injury forced him to miss the final eight games. Smith recently had screws removed from his surgically repaired ankle, and might be slowed early in training camp.

That basically leaves Kyle Arrington, Young and Canady. That doesn't present a promising picture especially since Young was taken in the fourth round and Canady in the sixth, but neither rookie is backing down. Actually, you appreciate their confidence.

Young, whom the Ravens signed Monday, is undersized at 5-feet-9 and 185 pounds. He supposedly is very good in off man coverage, is quick into his backpedal and changes speeds well. He has good instincts and is usually near the ball.

The knock on him is his size and questionable vertical speed. He might have problems matching up with physical receivers, but apparently had a strong showing at the Senior Bowl in late January.


Young isn't concerned about his size.

"It's just physical, tough and they play hard," said Young of the Ravens defense. "That's what we did at Temple, and I feel like it's the same thing and I fit right in. I feel like I'm ready."

Canady is more of the prototype cornerback. At 6-1 and 191 pounds, he has the broad shoulders and the tapered waist. Canady started 33 of 44 games at Virginia, collecting 148 tackles.

He can play outside or at nickel, and has good ball skills. But despite his size, some draft reports were critical of him not being physical in press coverage, and some weren't sure of his speed.

"Just prove myself like I proved myself since high school," said Canady. "I was a two-star [recruit] and I started my first day at Virginia. Proving myself is just another task to check off the list."

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"It's all going to show," said Canady. "My hard work, my competitiveness and my toughness — it's going to show. I have a huge chip on my shoulder right now."


The Ravens need to find a cornerback. If not, they will enter the season with Wright as a starter in a division where Pittsburgh has quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receiver Antonio Brown, and the Bengals will counter with Andy Dalton at quarterback and receiver A.J. Green on the outside.

"We feel really good about Tavon and Maurice," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said after the draft.

How good?

We'll find out in a couple of months.