Secondary struggles in preseason home opener

The Ravens’ secondary had reason to walk away from tonight’s home preseason opener feeling like it could’ve done better. Sure, the Ravens were facing the mighty “Megatron,” Calvin Johnson - he of great size, speed and skill. And sure they had gunslinger Matthew Stafford on the other side of the ball.

But foes of such caliber, or at least near that level, have fallen flat when facing the stifling, attacking, turnover-forcing, quarterback-hawking Ravens defenses of recent seasons.

So far this preseason, and yes it’s only fake games which have yet to count, Baltimore’s defensive backfield hasn’t quite measured up. It’s not all them, as the team is having difficulty getting to the quarterback without Terrell Suggs. But it’s the secondary, too.

On Friday, the Ravens allowed 254 yards in the first half, 236 of which came via the pass and 111 of which were generated by Stafford to Johnson.

So how did cornerback Lardarius Webb feel about the first team’s showing?

“We still have to put that work in, especially in the back end,” he said. “We say we want to be the best, so we’ve got to come out and play like we are the best. But it all starts in practice. When we go back to practice, I guarantee you we’re going to be back at it, going like we’re playing four quarters because that’s where we want to be. We want to be at the top. We’ve got some work to put in.

“I don’t think anything needs to change. But I just think the guys can just keep on competing. Calvin made a nice play on Jimmy (Smith), a nice back-shoulder play on him. He made a great catch. I tell Jimmy, ‘Just keep playing, you’ve just got to play through the guy.’ But Calvin made a great play. The guys, we really just commanded style-wise. I thought it was aggressive, I thought they went at the guys. ... They were playing like they wasn’t scared. They made plays tonight.”

Smith, the 2011 first-round pick making his preseason debut, had quite the task in his first game action this year - stop Johnson. He didn’t fare so well, evidenced by the previously mentioned five catches for 111 yards, including a 57-yard back-breaker.

But NFL cornerbacks are regularly humbled by Johnson.

“He’s the best player I’ve played against - physically imposing. He’s great,” Smith said. “I’ve never really faced anything like that before. I felt good out there, pressing him all the time. It’s just that one play, I got the back shoulder. If I went the right way, it wouldn’t have been (a play). He’s a great player.”

Through two preseason games, the Ravens have allowed 614 yards through the air and a 60.2 completion percentage while allowing an eye-popping 425.5 yards per game. A lot of that is coming against the first-team unit and Webb wants to see better.

“We’ve just got to get all on the same page. It’s all about putting the whole defense, 11 guys working on the same page,” he said. “We did a couple things tonight, but we kind of fell off.

“We were aggressive. That’s what I like. Our corners played pressed tonight. They weren’t scared of (Johnson’s) size. They were willing to put their hands on him and as long as they do that, we’ll be all right.”