Days have passed with excruciating slowness. The off-season has dragged, and we’ve all suffered for it. However, we made it through. Training camp has arrived, and with it, positional breakdowns from myself and Vas. In this article, we’ll go over the most important position on the field – the cornerbacks.
I know, I know. Some of you will argue that the quarterback is the most important position on the field, and I’d agree with you, but then we would both be wrong. The cornerbacks in today’s league are tasked with covering some of the best athletes in the world, and making sure they can’t catch the pigskin, even if they’re bigger, stronger, and faster than the aforementioned corner. All of the rules in today’s league are slanted against corners, and favor the offense. It is the most difficult position on the field, and not many teams (if any) can claim the depth and skill of the Baltimore Ravens’ cornerback room. Let’s get into it.
Projected starters (Pre-Training Camp)
CB1: Marlon Humphrey
CB2: Jimmy Smith
nCB: Tavon Young
CB3: Brandon Carr
CB4: Anthony Averett
CB5: Iman Marshall
The starters are essentially a lock, with the only fear being injury, and the only question whether the Ravens will break Carr’s ‘games started’ streak.
Marlon Humphrey is an underrated star, who blossomed quickly into a top-tier NFL defensive back. There is no challenger to his starting role.
Smith has been much-maligned for his inability to stay healthy, but at the end of 2018, he was a Top 3 corner in the league through the final four games. He still has elite talent at his age, and if nothing else, provides an incredible depth piece.
Young is one of the premier nickel corners in the league, and the Ravens rewarded him for it, with a new contract. If these three stay healthy for the entirety of 2019, some of the question marks surrounding the ‘new-look’ Ravens defense will dissipate quickly.
I’m sure some, if not all, of you have heard the phrase ‘starter-quality backup.’ That’s exactly what Carr is. Carr, who came to Baltimore from Dallas, has never missed a start in his career, and has blossomed late in his career as a very good CB2. While you don’t want him to cover the Antonio Browns or Odells of the world, he is more than capable of shutting down the majority of the WR2s in the league.
Averett has shown a good amount thus far, and I’m interested in seeing how he holds up as his snaps increase.
Marshall is a rookie, so we likely will not see much of him, but he’s made in the mold of Smith, and now has a chance to learn from the guy the Ravens hope he will eventually replace:
The rest of the Ravens cornerback group is made up of role-players who happen to be good at their jobs. Bethel is (was?) a special teams ace, and the Ravens both paid him a bonus, and forfeited a compensatory pick for him, so I’d expect him to get an honest shot at the roster.
We’re all familiar with Canady, who gave up a crucial *play deleted by author* back in 2017 – but he’s not without his skillset.
Jones played returner for the Ravens in 2018, and did better than anybody they’ve had since Hester (which isn’t really saying much).
SJB showed flashes in the preseason, in 2018, and could push for one of the fringe spots, while Bonds was an AAF standout, and has already begun making plays in OTAs – the reason the Ravens signed him in the first place.
If you have to choose a strength of the 2019 Baltimore Ravens, it should absolutely be the cornerback group. You want a fast corner? They have it. A hitter? Got that too. You want a straight coverage guy? They have a few. You want a guy who can burst off of the edge and take down the quarterback? Just call on Tavon.
I have defensive back bias, from playing as a younger, more energetic man, and it will make me genuinely sad to see some of these guys cut on that day. But regardless of who is kept, and who goes, the Ravens have the best, and deepest, cornerback group in the entire league, and that’s not disputable – even to those people silly enough to think David DeCastro is better than Marshal Yanda.