Perhaps the most interesting competition between now and Week 1 for the Ravens is at cornerback, where five players are jockeying for two starting positions. The selection of first-round pick Jimmy Smith and the emergence of third-year cornerback Cary Williams have given the Ravens depth they didn't have last season when they finished 21st in pass defense and were victimized by the pass in the playoff loss to the Steelers.
Smith and Williams started at cornerback in the preseason win over the Chiefs last week, and each had his moments. Matched up against Pro Bowl wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, Smith got beat twice for 40 yards, but his physicality and fearlessness were encouraging. Williams showed good anticipation, nearly jumping a couple of routes for interceptions. However, he got caught flat-footed on Kansas City's lone touchdown play.
The two cornerbacks, both taller than six feet, seem to have the inside track for starting spots for the season opener. Domonique Foxworth, Lardarius Webb and Chris Carr are also in the mix.
Foxworth was splitting time on the first-team defense with Smith on Monday. He is a year removed from a torn ACL, and he has said that he experienced a setback this summer. The Ravens are paying him starter money, but explosiveness and durability are concerns as he pushes to return after missing the 2010 season.
Meanwhile, Webb and Carr have both seen time in the starting lineup and as the team's nickel back the past two seasons. Experience could give them an edge when Week 1 rolls around, particularly with Carr, who started all 16 games last year and who matches up well with Steelers veteran wide receiver Hines Ward.
"We are really deep and really talented," Foxworth said Sunday. "So no matter what happens with any one or two guys, we have more guys who can step in and do just as good a job."
Depth is a good thing to have, and the Ravens appear to have it. But what about the top-end talent? Do the Ravens have two cornerbacks who can lock down starting spots -- and enemy receivers -- in 2011?