The Baltimore Ravens defense improved dramatically throughout the 2019 season, after a slow start. A big reason for this was their mid-season acquisitions, primarily at cornerback.
The most significant impact came from the trade for cornerback Marcus Peters, who was rejuvenated with the Ravens. He and Marlon Humphrey are in the conversation for the best cornerback duo in the NFL. Baltimore’s secondary is it’s best defensive unit, in large part thanks to their strength at corner.
Marlon Humphrey A Young Gem At Corner
Since being drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Marlon Humphrey has established himself as one of the best young corners in the league. He was a First-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection in 2019. Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 12th best corner last year and was ninth in passer rating allowed.
Humphrey and Peters are a formidable duo, especially with depth pieces like Jimmy Smith and Tavon Young in reserve. Humphrey has legit 4.4 speed to pair with an aggressive play style that makes him great at defending medium and deep passes. At 6ft 0 197 pounds, he’s a willing tackler also, and his skills perfectly suit the Ravens defensive scheme.
Marcus Peters Rejuvenated in Baltimore
Trading for Marcus Peters proved an inspired move for general manager Eric DeCosta. The trade, before week seven, drastically improved the Baltimore defense. In ten games, Peters had three interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns and eight pass breakups. He impressed enough to earn a three-year $42 million extension.
Peters massively improved from 2018 to 2019, with his passer rating allowed dropping from 109.9 (72nd) in 2018, to 73.7 (14th) in 2019. PFF rated him fourth amongst cornerbacks last year. His concentration improved dramatically, highlighted by his impressive ability to bait opposing quarterbacks into throwing interceptions. Peters is one of the best man coverage corners in the NFL and has an aggressive style that ensures he’s an imposing presence at the line of scrimmage.
Jimmy Smith The Veteran Cornerback in Baltimore
Jimmy Smith has been a mainstay in Baltimore since they drafted him in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. His 4.42 speed and size at 6ft 2 and 210 pounds have always made him an underrated top-tier corner. Entering his tenth year in the NFL, Smith’s role has diminished with the emergence of Humphrey and Peters.
Injuries have been Smith’s most significant issue in his career, only playing all 16 games twice in his nine-year NFL career. He missed seven games in 2019 with an MCL sprain, but his play remained at a high level with one interception, and three pass breakup’s in nine games. Smith’s injury history and age (31) help explain how the Ravens re-signed him to a one-year $3.5 million deal. He’s a great third option at cornerback, who provides veteran experience to the position group.
Tavon Young Hoping to Bounce Back in 2020
Tavon Young is another budding young star for the Ravens. The fourth-round pick from 2016 missed the entire 2019 season with a training camp neck injury, but before this was emerging as a star at slot corner. He had signed a three-year $25.8 million extension in February 2019, at the time the most money for a slot corner.
Young struggled with injuries in his four-year career, missing the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL. He’s under-sized at 5ft 9 185 pounds but has good 4.46 speed and is a willing tackler. He’s underrated but is an integral part of this Ravens secondary. The Ravens coaches love Young, and his talents only add to their great depth at cornerback.
Anthony Averett Next Cornerback Looking to Step Up
Since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Anthony Averett has seen limited action in Baltimore. He’s under-sized at 5ft 11 and 178 pounds but has blazing 4.36 speed. He stepped up when Jimmy Smith went down injured in 2019, with solid play in limited action.
Heading into 2020, Averett should see an increased role, with Smith injury-plagued and veteran Brandon Carr departing. He has the speed to run with most receivers in coverage, but struggles with ball skills and doesn’t have the size to dominate receivers physically. He’s likely going to backup Tavon Young in the slot for 2020.
Iman Marshall A Good Cornerback Fit in Baltimore
Iman Marshall is yet another young cornerback Baltimore has drafted in recent years. The Ravens selected Marshall in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, but he missed the majority of his rookie year. He was activated from injured reserve in week eleven, seeing limited action on special teams.
Marshall fits the Ravens perfectly with his physical size and length, at 6ft 1 and 210 pounds. He shines at the line of scrimmage, with the size to be an imposing tackler, especially in the run game. He projects as a good early-downs corner who can excel in the run game but struggles in coverage.
The Other Cornerbacks Just Hoping to Make The Team
Terrell Bonds went undrafted in 2018, making a name in the short-lived AAF with the Memphis Express. The Ravens picked him up in May 2019, impressing them in training camp.
He spent the 2019 season on the practice squad. Bonds has good hands but lacks size and speed, so will need a big training camp to step up and make the final roster.
Khalil Dorsey was one of three undrafted corners the Ravens signed this year. He excelled at Northern Arizona University, with eight interceptions in four years. Dorsey was a 2018 All-Big Sky Conference First Team player. His 4.36 speed is his most significant attribute but is making a massive step up to the NFL. If he can impress this summer, he’s a potential practice squad candidate.
Josh Nurse was a starter for the University of Utah team that went 11-3 in 2019, led by their top-level defense. Nurse has excellent length at 6ft 3 but not the ideal speed at 4.53. Nurse is a raw player with only two years of experience at Utah. He has plenty of potential but will need time to develop his talent.
The final undrafted player signed was Jeff Hector. Hector’s rise is incredible as he came from division three school Redlands. Hector was an AP All-American in 2019, with eight interceptions, three returned for touchdowns. He has some rare, impressive traits, at 6ft with 4.4 speed. The step-up from division three to the NFL is massive, but Hector has some qualities that intrigue the Ravens.
That wraps up this examination of the Ravens depth at cornerback. Let us know your thoughts on the position in the comments section below.
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