Baltimore Ravens: Why Corey Graham Should Be a Starter Next Year

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | For the Baltimore Ravens, one of their deepest positions heading into the 2013 season is cornerback.

With the return of one of the NFL's premier lockdown corners in Lardarius Webb, the Ravens are entering the season with four defensive backs capable of starting at cornerback.

After Webb, the team has veterans Corey Graham, Chykie Brown and Jimmy Smith. All three are talented enough to start in the NFL, but only one can earn a full-time starting job opposite Webb in 2013.

After starting the final eight regular season games and all four postseason games last season in Webb's absence, Graham proved that he should be the favorite for the starting role in 2013.

It wasn't until Week 10 that Graham was inserted into the starting lineup, but his play in the second half of the season was more than enough to show why he is a capable starter for the Ravens.

Prior to joining the Ravens before the 2012 season, Graham was nothing more than a special teams ace. He spent his first five seasons of his career with the Chicago Bears, earning just 10 starts at cornerback with his last start coming in 2009.

When he joined the Ravens, expectations were for him to contribute heavily on special teams, with just a marginal role at cornerback. But after Webb's season-ending ACL injury on October 14, Graham had a prime chance to prove to the coaches that he is much more than a special teams contributor.

After being inserted into the starting lineup, Graham immediately became one of the Ravens' most consistent defenders. He recorded an interception in each of the two regular season games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and also intercepted two passes in the Divisional Round against the Denver Broncos, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

Entering the 2013 season, Graham will compete with Smith and Brown for the second starting job. Based on Smith and Brown's play at the end of the season, it will be no easy task for Graham to win the competition.

However, if Graham proved anything in the second half of last season, it's that he can rise above expectations and prove that he is a better player than he is perceived.

If he can build on his success in 2012, Graham should win a full-time starting job for the 2013 season. Paired with Webb, the Ravens will have an effective duo that can help ease the pressure for two newcomers at safety in Michael Huff and Matt Elam.

Kyle Casey is a sports writer living in Baltimore, Md. He maintains his own football site, End Zone Report, and contributes to Russell Street Report, a Baltimore Ravens blog.

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