Ravens poor secondary play is a primary concern

The Baltimore Ravens are still searching for an effective

cornerback duo, and their struggling secondary has become a primary

concern for a defense in danger of losing its reputation as one of

the best in the NFL.

Cornerbacks Chris Carr, Fabian Washington, Josh Wilson and

Lardarius Webb have been repeatedly burned this season.

Washington’s futility cost him a starting job, and Webb and Wilson

are still smarting from the beating that Atlanta quarterback Matt

Ryan and receiver Roddy White laid on them last Thursday in a 26-21

victory.

”It’s called the NFL,” Wilson said Wednesday. ”You’re going

to have your good days, you’re going to have your bad days. You

have to weather them all.”

Ryan threw for 316 yards and three scores. Two games earlier,

Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed four touchdown passes and rang up

382 yards passing.

The Ravens rank 13th in the NFL in passing yardage allowed,

which goes a long way toward explaining why Baltimore has the

10th-ranked overall defense after finishing third last year – its

seventh consecutive season in the top six.

Perhaps all that will change if the secondary carousel comes to

a stop. Wilson arrived on Sept. 1 in a trade with Seattle, Webb got

a late start this season while recovering from a knee injury and

six-time Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed missed the first six weeks

following offseason hip surgery.

”Communication is getting better and needs to get better,”

Reed said. ”We thought we matched up well (against Atlanta), but

the technical stuff on certain plays we didn’t do well.”

That’s what happens when a veteran defense takes on some new

parts.

”A lot of us have played with each other for a long time, and

then you add young pieces here and there,” linebacker Ray Lewis

said. ”You start to fit your pieces in. I think this defense has

the ability to do whatever we want to do once we finally start

solidifying those pieces (and determine) who’s going to be our

starter.”

Carr and Washington started the first two games together. After

Wilson replaced Carr in Week 3 on the left side, the tandem of Carr

and Washington started the next five games before Wilson took over

for Washington in Atlanta.

Carr and Wilson will probably start again Sunday in Carolina,

but coach John Harbaugh isn’t telling.

”I know one thing – I’m going to try to keep my spot,” Wilson

said. ”Whatever the coaches decide from there is on them, but I

control my own destiny.”

The Ravens would prefer to receive a consistent performance from

all four cornerbacks, which would make substituting seamless.

”I definitely see it getting better,” Lewis said. ”I think

it’s chemistry. Right now, just moving the pieces the way we are –

going from Josh to Webb to Carr – it’s great movement. It’s just a

matter of putting it all together as a group.”

Webb is eager, but he’s only in his second season and coming off

knee surgery. His youth – not his knee – made him a target last

week in Atlanta.

”I haven’t been here 10 years. I didn’t even play my full

rookie season,” he said. ”I played what, five games at corner?

They’re going to go after the young guys. It’s all part of the

game.”

In spite of their difficulty on defense, the Ravens (6-3) are

still tied for first in the AFC North and will play four of their

final six games at home after Sunday. That leaves them plenty of

time to lower that unsightly number 10 in the defensive

rankings.

”Our focus is, if we keep stacking up Ws, all of that will come

later,” Lewis said. ”That’s a fact of football. Some of the teams

higher than us have worse records than us. It can be misconstrued.

We went through the roughest time of our schedule, now it’s time to

start building on that. Stats will come with that.”

The Ravens could make a move against the Panthers (1-8), who

will likely start either rookie Tony Pike or journeyman Brian St.

Pierre at quarterback.

”I have all the respect in the world for the Baltimore

defense,” Carolina coach John Fox said. ”I think they’re playing

good defense, and that’s why they have a good record.”