Secondary is primary focus for Ravens' defense this season

Tue Jun 11 4:01pm ET
By DAVID GINSBURG
AP Sports Writer

In this Oct. 14, 2018, file photo, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith warms up before an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans, in Nashville, Tenn. During a busy offseason, the Baltimore Ravens put a high priority on fortifying a secondary that last season played a huge role on the top-ranked defense in the NFL. That included retaining Jimmy Smith. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)


In this Dec. 30, 2018, file photo, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr warms up before an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, in Baltimore. During a busy offseason, the Baltimore Ravens put a high priority on fortifying a secondary that last season played a huge role on the top-ranked defense in the NFL. That included retaining Brandon Carr. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)


OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) During a busy offseason, the Baltimore Ravens put a high priority on fortifying a secondary that last season played a huge role on the top-ranked defense in the NFL.

First-year general manager Eric DeCosta offset the departure of safety Eric Weddle by signing six-time Pro Bowl standout Earl Thomas. DeCosta also provided nickel back Tavon Young with a three-year extension, retained over-30 cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Jimmy Smith, and signed free agent cornerback Justin Bethel.

Throw in 2017 first-round pick Marlon Humphrey and six-year pro Tony Jefferson, and it would seem as if the Ravens have a secondary capable of being among the best in the league.

''I'll tell you one thing: The standard is high for those guys,'' coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday after the first session of the team's three-day mandatory minicamp.

Given that the Ravens lost linebackers Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith to free agency, the defense's hope of carrying on the franchise's tradition of excellence likely depends on the guys on the back end.

''We've got a lot of resources committed to the secondary,'' Harbaugh said. ''We value coverage. We think it's important with the way we structure our defense. We love having those guys back there.''

Carr has played 11 seasons in the NFL and has never missed a start, a streak of 176 games. A regular participant this spring at OTAs, he can't wait for the season to begin.

''We've got a lot of talent in this backfield, a lot of guys who have made plays throughout their careers, and new guys who are rising,'' said Carr, who shed the braids that protruded from under his helmet for the past five years.

The Ravens, like every team, focus first on stopping the run. Tackles Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce form a sizable duo up front, although Pierce's weight proved to be an issue Tuesday; he was told to leave the field shortly after the team stretched.

''He's not ready to practice, from a safety standpoint, for his own health,'' Harbaugh said.

Jimmy Smith, on the other hand, reported in excellent shape. With nine seasons behind him - all with Baltimore - the 31 year old made certain his stamina and strength would not be an issue as he prepares to enter the final year of his contract.

''When you're young, you eat chicken wings, hot wings, pizza. You go out and play a game and it's no problem,'' he said. ''The older you get, you start to actually feel like one candy bar kind of slowed me down today. You have to pay attention to that, but when you're young you don't really notice it.''

Smith and the rest of the secondary expect to be noticed during the 2019 season, when the Ravens strive to reach the playoffs for the second year in a row after a three-year hiatus.

''(Owner Steve) Bisciotti believes in us. Our coaching staff and the people upstairs, they believe in our secondary,'' Smith said. ''We've got a lot of vets back there and we kind of have to be the driving force for the defense since we are the ones with the most experience.''

Thomas, like Smith, is a nine-year veteran whose athletic skill is supplemented by the ability to provide experience and leadership.

''He's a dog. Very passionate,'' Smith said. ''I can tell he's going to bring a lot of energy to our team.''

Player Notes
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Andre Roberts Jun 13 11:53pm ET

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Matt Barkley Jun 13 10:53pm ET

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Cameron Meredith Jun 13 10:33pm ET

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Geronimo Allison Jun 13 10:13pm ET

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Fantasy Spin: Allison had a productive start to last season before suffering an injury, and while Marquez Valdes-Scantling may have the inside track on the No. 2 receiver job, the Green Bay passing attack could support three viable fantasy options. Consider Allison a WR4 with upside.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling Jun 13 10:03pm ET

Green Bay Packers WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling has been lining up across from WR Davante Adams in all packages during minicamp.

Fantasy Spin: It sounds like Valdes-Scantling has the inside track to the No. 2 receiver job. It remains to be seen if he will take the role and run with it, but the upside that comes with being one of Aaron Rodgers' top targets makes him a WR4 candidate.

Robby Anderson Jun 13 9:23pm ET

New York Jets WR Robby Anderson (undisclosed) did not practice Thursday, June 13, because of an undisclosed injury.

Fantasy Spin: The nature of Anderson's injury remains unclear, but unless it lingers into training camp, fantasy owners shouldn't be too concerned. Anderson started to connect with Sam Darnold on some big plays late last season, and he's a WR3 candidate in 2019 as the top option in the passing attack.

Leonard Fournette Jun 13 9:03pm ET

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Fantasy Spin: Fournette has just 48 career catches for 487 yards and two touchdowns over the first two seasons of his career. Foles most memorably hooked up with RB Corey Clement four times for 100 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl LII. Fournette could be a huge steal if he continues to go in the third round of PPR drafts.

Marlon Mack Jun 13 8:23pm ET

Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack is being viewed by head coach Frank Reich as the team's workhorse in the backfield, according to Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star.

Fantasy Spin: Mack rushed for 908 yards and nine touchdowns last season while adding 103 yards and one touchdown as a receiver. Nyheim Hines should handle the majority of third-down duties in 2019, but Mack could still return plenty of value as a high-end RB2.

LeSean McCoy Jun 13 7:43pm ET

Buffalo Bills RB LeSean McCoy expects to maintain a large role in the offense in his age-31 season in 2019. 'I'm a type of guy, I thrive off of having a big name. So when guys come to my team, they're curious to see, 'How is LeSean McCoy? Is he still a good player?' I mean, I'm a dominant player. I think that speaks for itself. But I'll be in the same role as last year. And I look forward to putting some numbers up and bouncing back from that last season,' McCoy said Tuesday, June 12.

Fantasy Spin: McCoy totaled just 752 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns last season. Both numbers were career worsts as he played in 14 games but made just 13 starts. He remains No. 1 on the Bills' depth chart, but he'll be competing against veteran RB Frank Gore and third-round rookie Devin Singletary. He's fallen into RB4 territory but could prove to be a steal at a mid-round price.

Darius Slay Jun 13 6:43pm ET

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Dallas Goedert Jun 13 6:33pm ET

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Fantasy Spin: Goedert, who caught 33 passes for 334 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie after being chosen 49th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, will remain behind Zach Ertz on the Eagles' depth chart as a sophomore. He could prove to be a viable TE2 in deeper leagues and would be an instant must-add should Ertz miss any time.

David Moore Jun 13 6:23pm ET

Seattle Seahawks WR David Moore has made a huge leap this offseason in his knowledge of the position and in his ability to play multiple spots, according to head coach Pete Carroll on Thursday, June 13.

Fantasy Spin: Moore caught just 26 of 53 targets last season but turned those into 445 yards and five touchdowns. He projects behind Tyler Lockett and rookie D.K. Metcalf on the depth chart, but he's worth a late-round pick as a WR5 as the Seahawks begin life without Doug Baldwin.

Theo Riddick Jun 13 5:53pm ET

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Kerryon Johnson Jun 13 5:53pm ET

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Demarcus Lawrence Jun 13 5:53pm ET

Dallas Cowboys CB Byron Jones (hip) and DE DeMarcus Lawrence (shoulder) are expected to begin training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

DeSean Jackson Jun 13 5:43pm ET

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Lamar Jackson Jun 13 5:43pm ET

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Travin Dural Jun 13 4:53pm ET

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C.J. Prosise Jun 13 4:43pm ET

Seattle Seahawks RB C.J. Prosise (hamstring) reportedly left practice with a tight hamstring Thursday, June 13, according to head coach Pete Carroll.