In a matter of weeks, Corey Graham’s role with the Ravens has taken on even greater importance.
Primarily used in nickel coverage packages and special teams, he’s now part of the base defense as the starting cornerback with Jimmy Smith being out because of groin surgery Thursday. Smith had replaced starter Lardarius Webb, who tore a knee ligament last month and is out for the season.
"It’s a little different. I’ve played outside before," Graham said of his new role. "It’s not like the first time I get the opportunity to do it. … Keep your eyes on your guy, you’ll be alright."
Earlier this week, the Ravens signed free agent defensive back Chris Johnson who played for the Oakland Raiders last season. Johnson has played nine NFL seasons. Neither is as big as Smith, who stands 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds.
Cary Williams is in his first season as a starter at the other cornerback slot. He beat out Smith in the preseason to play opposite Webb. Now Williams is the veteran presence along with Graham, who is in his sixth season after spending five years with the Chicago Bears.
Chykie Brown also figured into the secondary rotation behind Graham with Smith out of last week's 55-20 win vs. the Oakland Raiders. He was playing most of his snaps on special teams.
“I thought they played OK. … There were some plays they made and some plays they didn’t make,” defensive coordinator Dean Pees said of Graham and Brown. “We have to do a good job of putting them in the right spot and not asking them to do things that they really can’t do.”
Catching on quickly could prove difficult for Johnson. The Ravens also could activate cornerback Asa Jackson, a rookie fifth-round draft pick. Jackson has yet to be active for a game this season.
“Well all got to go out there and help him get up to speed on what the defense is trying to do,” Graham said. “When you come in this late in the season during the week and you’re expected to play its going to be tough for him.”