When Chris Johnson came to the Ravens as a late free agent signing last month, Chykie Brown quickly took a back seat in the nickel packages.
When Jimmy Smith returned recently from hernia surgery, it was expected that Brown would fall back deeper in the rotation of cornerbacks.
Instead, he not only got the call in Sunday’s 33-14 win vs. the New York Giants, the second-year player responded with his best game of the season.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw at Brown, but he answered the challenge by tallying a team-high 4 pass breakups. Receiver Hakeem Nicks had no catches. Victor Cruz only had 3 for 21 yards.
"He’s really starting to gain some confidence. … There were a couple things that didn’t look right on tape that we talked about,” coach John Harbaugh said of his post-game chat with Brown after he reviewed the film of the game. "But he’s getting to the point now on as a player where he can explain or articulate why he’s doing things, what he saw, or what he thought the defense called for, and they make sense.
"You can understand what he’s saying. It may not be right, but he’s starting to really think the game out there. That’s good to see in a young corner."
Brown played 33 of the 48 defensive snaps for Baltimore (69%) while Smith didn’t play any. He only got on the field for 16 special-teams plays.
Smith was trotted out in the Ravens' 34-17 loss to the Denver Broncos two weeks ago and didn’t fare well in the 12 snaps that he was on the field. He didn’t have the explosion and admitted he wasn’t ready.
After having his big chance to fill the void left by Lardarius Webb when he went down Oct. 14 with a season-ending knee injury, Smith only had two starts at cornerback before opting for surgery that put him out for the next five games.
Brown has an excellent mentor in safety Ed Reed.
"I told Chykie to keep building," he said. "Even though he is a young guy, he has a lot to build on.
"Chykie has been my mentee. Just talking to him constantly, maybe it's helping him, maybe it's not. He's a grown man and he's been listening to (secondary) coach Teryl Austin and making plays every time he gets in there. I have the utmost confidence in Chykie."