The Ravens' secondary endured one of its roughest seasons in 2014, with its depth decimated by multiple injuries at cornerback.
Starters Jimmy Smith missed time with a Lisfranc foot sprain that required surgery and Lardarius Webb suffered from a lingering back injury. Cornerbacks Aaron Ross, Danny Gorrer, Asa Jackson and Tramain Jacobs all suffered season-ending injuries.
With the exception of Webb, all finished the season on injured reserve.
Although the defense finished eighth overall, (allowing 336.9 yards per game), fourth in rushing (88.3 yards allowed per game) and sixth in scoring defense (18.9 points per game), injuries were problematic as the Ravens finished 23rd in the NFL in pass defense. They allowed 248.7 passing yards per game despite a strong pass rush ranked second in the NFL with 49 sacks.
This offseason, the Ravens signed Smith to a four-year, $48 million contract extension, restructured Webb's contract, signed former New England Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington to a three-year, $7 million deal, added veteran cornerback Cassius Vaughn on a one-year, $825,000 deal and drafted rookie Tray Walker in the fourth round.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees expressed confidence that the secondary will improve significantly this year.
"I don’t think there’s going to be any doubt that we’re going to be so much better than we were last year," Pees said. "I just really feel like there’s a lot of depth back there, and what’s really, I think, going to make it good is the competition. I don’t think anybody has a spot locked up, and I think everybody has to compete, and they have to compete at the highest level, and I think they will. I’m really expecting good things out of them.”
Last season, the Ravens intercepted just 11 passes. That ranked in the bottom third of the NFL.
In an AFC divisional round loss to the New England Patriots, quarterback Tom Brady passed for 367 yards and three touchdowns as he repeatedly targeted reserve cornerback Rashaan Melvin.
Melvin and several other players are competing for playing time behind Smith and Webb.
"It’s just a tremendous amount of competition there at corner, and they all want a spot," Pees said. "They all want a shot. They’re all hungry for it, and I think it’s just making everybody better. I really am pleased so far with the way camp is going.
"I know sometimes you look out there, and if a guy gets beat deep, he gets beat deep. But on all those balls that are kind of thrown up there that are competitive, I don’t get too worried about those, because the DB has to back off so we don’t have collisions. I don’t consider that getting beat. I think we’ve had less big balls thrown on us on this camp than in a lot of camps.”