Plug-in veterans help power Ravens defense
By Ken Murray
November 22, 2008
There are no slackers on the Ravens' defense, thanks in part to veteran leadership. When safety Jim Leonhard first set foot in the locker room in April, he quickly gained an appreciation for that fact.
"You feel that right away," he said yesterday. "You know the talent and the intelligence of the players on this defense, and you can't be the guy to let them down. They don't care if you're a rookie, a free agent or a guy they just brought in. They expect you to learn the defense and understand it as well as they do."
Leonhard learned on the run as the only newcomer in a pre-draft minicamp that also served as his two-day tryout. Signed the day after the draft, Leonhard saw his job description go from special teams to starting strong safety in Week 2 when Dawan Landry suffered a season-ending neck injury.
After three seasons with the Buffalo Bills, Leonhard, a free agent in the offseason, was one of three key veteran additions the Ravens made to the secondary. Cornerbacks Fabian Washington (draft-day trade) and Frank Walker (free agent) have also played significant roles at a position depleted by injuries last season.
Then there was Leonhard, the 5-foot-8, 186-pound safety who has taken on tight ends this year as well as playing on special teams. Defensive backs coach Mark Carrier made that evaluation, and when Leonhard showed well in his tryout, the Ravens quickly offered him a contract.
"Someone that athletic and that smart we felt was a good fit," Kokinis said. "He learned that defense fast. It's a lot about chemistry, a little about talent and a lot about heart, and he has that."