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Asa Jackson takes lead in corner battle

Asa Jackson gained an early edge over Chykie Brown for the Baltimore Ravens' No. 3 cornerback spot for one simple reason: He knows how to play the ball.

As he's done throughout training camp, Jackson delivered a big play in the preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers, picking off Blaine Gabbert in the second quarter. While Jackson described it as a routine play in zone coverage, he needed to make a leaping catch to pull in the interception.

Jackson's play was even more impressive when comparing it to Brown's night. Brown was called for penalties on the first two passes thrown his way because he failed to turn back and locate the ball.

The way this summer has progressed, no one should be surprised if Jackson is lining up to cover the slot receiver in the season opener when the Ravens put three cornerbacks on the field.

"I'm just going to keep going out there and try to make plays and just try to become the best player I can," Jackson said of the competition with Brown. "It's not a one-on-one game. It's not me vs. anyone else's game. It's a team game."

Jackson is a small corner at 5-foot-10 and 182 pounds. He has never played a defensive snap in a regular-season game. And he's more comfortable covering the slot than the outside, which is why Brown continues to fill in for Lardarius Webb (back) in the starting lineup.

But Jackson continues to stand out because he makes plays. The impressive part about his interception in the preseason opener was how it swung momentum. It came two plays after the Ravens had given the ball away on a fumble.

"He's got ball skills," coach John Harbaugh said. "He went up and got it. Generally speaking, that's what you want to do. You have a turnover, they happen. Your defense goes out there in a sudden-change situation and makes a play. Hopefully, that's something we can train into our guys for the regular season."

Jackson is currently working on his third, and possibly last, chance with the Ravens. He has been suspended in each of his first two NFL seasons for using the stimulant Adderall, which is a banned substance. It has led to two suspensions totaling 12 games.

His past mistakes put his current opportunity into perspective.

"I've had football taken away from me, so I re-understood how precious this game really is and how it's truly a privilege," Jackson said. "I appreciate every snap, practice and game. Hopefully, there's a lot more to come this season."