Asked about the Ravens’ secondary Monday, defensive coordinator Dean Pees made a bold statement.
“We’re going to be so much better than we were last year,” Pees said.
To win a championship, the Ravens’ secondary will have to be better. It was the weak link of the defense in 2014, especially after season-ending injuries to cornerback Jimmy Smith, cornerback Asa Jackson, and safety Terrence Brooks. In their 35-31 playoff loss to the Patriots, the Ravens could not hold 14-point leads on two separate occasions, as quarterback Tom Brady completed 33 of 50 passes for 367 yards.
Certainly, the Ravens will need better health to have an improved secondary. But here are three things the Ravens want from their secondary.
1. Fewer deep balls allowed
Teams knew the Ravens were vulnerable to big plays last season, and took full advantage, especially after Smith went down. But Pees likes what he has seen during OTA’s, even without contact.
“I think we’ve had less big balls thrown on us this camp than in a lot of camps,” Pees said.
The Ravens have more depth at cornerback behind Smith and Lardarius Webb, after signing free agents Kyle Arrington and Cassius Vaughn, and drafting Tray Walker. However, Arrington has played more in the slot than on the outside in recent seasons. If either Smith or Webb suffers an injury, the Ravens will need someone to step forward and play well in the role of No. 2 corner.
2. Steadier play at safety
Darian Stewart is gone, after a disappointing one-year stint in Baltimore. Enter Kendrick Lewis, signed as a free agent from the Texans. Lewis looks like an upgrade and is expected to start at free safety. Although Brooks may not be ready for Week 1 following knee surgery, he is already practicing and on the road to a full recovery. The bigger question mark is at strong safety. Matt Elam faces a pivotal season after underachieving for two years. Will Hill must prove he can be counted on for 16 games, after being suspended the first six games last season for violating the NFL’s substance policy.
3. Better tackling
On too many occasions, the Ravens missed the initial tackle after allowing a catch. Until the Ravens play preseason games, it will be difficult to tell if the tackling has improved. But it needs to.
At this point, Pees is not afraid to say the Ravens’ secondary will be better. The Ravens will certainly hope he is correct.