New-Look Ravens’ Defensive Backfield Expects To Be Dominant

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens addressed their most obvious need during the offseason by adding talent and depth to the secondary.

As a result, the potential of this unit — which for years has been a sore spot — knows no bounds.

“We’ve got a nice mix of players who have done it before and also some good young players,” coach John Harbaugh said Friday. “We expect our secondary to be dominant.”

The Ravens ended the 2016 season with six defensive backs on injured reserve. The shortage of effective backups finally caught up to Baltimore in the last quarter of the season, when the defense was scorched for 114 points during a 1-3 finish that ruined the team’s playoff bid.

So general manager Ozzie Newsome signed free agents Brandon Carr and Tony Jefferson, drafted Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey in the first round and retained versatile safety Lardarius Webb.

Throw returning cornerback Jimmy Smith and safety Eric Weddle into the mix, and you’ve got a backfield that could turn out to be a quarterback’s nightmare.

“There are a lot of guys that are going to be counted on,” secondary coach Chris Hewitt said. “We’ve had some people throughout the years that have gone down, leaving us pretty thin there. But this year we have a lot of depth. And, on top of that, we’ve got talent.”

Carr has enjoyed an amazing career as an NFL cornerback, if for no other reason than because he has never missed a game. For four straight years with Kansas City, then five in a row with the Cowboys, he made 16 starts a season plus playoffs.

The Ravens have long been in search of that kind of player, so Carr’s perfect attendance record was just too much to pass up.

“You’ve got to be impressed that he practices every day his whole career and plays all the time,” Harbaugh said. “But it’s not that we chose durability over talent, because he was the best player, too. The way he plays fits us really well, and we wanted that particular player. The durability was a bonus.”

Asked the secret of his streak, the 31-year-old Carr said: “I don’t have an answer for it. If I did, I’d probably write a book.”

When pressed, he said, “From (the start of training camp) through February, there’s a lot of sacrifice and commitment, physically and mentally.”

Jefferson brings a hard-hitting technique to the free safety spot. He came to the Ravens after playing four years in Arizona, posting a team-high 92 tackles last season.

Jefferson has about a week left in his recovery from sports hernia surgery. When he begins practice, the Ravens will begin putting together a backfield with designs of being mean and aggressive.

“We’re getting up in people’s faces a lot,” Harbaugh said. “You’re going to see a lot of press coverage. That’s how we’ve always wanted to play.”

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