Sometime this spring, Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb boasted that the Ravens had the best secondary in the league. Free safety Ed Reed is ball-hawking his way to Canton. Strong safety Bernard Pollard has been a great fit in Baltimore. Jimmy Smith was a 2011 first-round draft pick. Cary Williams played well enough last season to keep Smith behind him on the depth chart. And Webb himself was an emerging star -- and in the offseason, he got a five-year, $50 million extension that reflected that. Webb didn't back away from his boast during training camp, and two of the players I just mentioned told me that they agreed with them. But it was Smith who was the unlikely voice of caution -- teammates say the 24-year-old cornerback has matured a lot since last season -- and said the Ravens had to earn that kind of reputation on the field. But in the teams first three games, the Ravens have allowed an average of 289.7 yards through the air to a trio of former Pro Bowl quarterbacks in Andy Dalton, Michael Vick and Tom Brady. They now rank a very un-Raven-like 28th in pass defense after Brady completed 28 of his 41 attempts for 335 yards and a touchdown. Slot receiver extraordinaire Wes Welker -- who looks to be phased back into the Patriots offense -- had eight catches for 142 yards as the defense usually tried to cover him by committee. Meanwhile, Brandon Lloyd picked on Williams then Smith and then Williams some more as he caught nine passes for 108 yards. Hey, at least they did a good job tracking tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had just two grabs for a quiet 21 yards. During the week, a couple of Ravens defensive backs got a little frustrated with questions about the struggles of the defense. But that group sounded humbled after another rocky performance. Weve got to work on every aspect of our game, Williams said. Were far from perfect. We know whats expected of us. Weve just got to come as a team and as a unit and get the job done. But by no means should the secondary shoulder all of the blame. Without Terrell Suggs, the pass rush has been a non-factor for much of the first three games, but as the Ravens rallied in the fourth quarter, they sacked Brady a second time and got in the quarterbacks oh-so-dreamy grill on a few other plays. With less time to identify areas to exploit, Brady completed just five of his 10 fourth-quarter attempts for a total of 41 yards. The Ravens secondary still might not have looked like the NFLs best then, but at least it was no longer looking like a serious liability.
Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun
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