In what seemed to be a questionable pick at the time, the Ravens selected Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey with the 16th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Humphrey started the year strong, and now, with Jimmy Smith out for the year, Humphrey has been thrust into a starting role. Humphrey struggled last week against the Lions, but did come up with a crucial interception in the late stages of the game.
Today, in primetime against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Humphrey faces an even bigger test, and the whole nation will be watching.
Humphrey and Brandon Carr will be tasked with manning the outside against a high powered Steelers offense. JuJu Smith-Schuster will not play, but Antonio Brown, who is playing his best football of the year, will be suiting up. The Steelers will certainly have eyes on testing the rookie corner, especially when he is inevitably covering Brown.
Moreover, Marlon Humphrey’s biggest weakness is deep ball coverage, while the Ben Roethlisberger-Antonio Brown deep ball connection is lethal. Sure, Roethlisberger is not what he once was, but there is little doubt the Steelers will try to get Brown with a one-on-one matchup against Humphrey deep.
Dean Pees will need to help his rookie with safety help in such a scenario. Frankly, it’s unfair to expect any corner to cover Brown with no help.
The Ravens didn’t have Jimmy Smith in Pittsburgh last year, and it hurt the Ravens as Pittsburgh carved up the Ravens defense on its final drive, resulting in Brown’s game winning touchdown. The Ravens loaded up in the secondary over the offseason for this exact scenario, to avoid a similar ending to a year ago.
Unlike last year, the secondary has the depth to still perform well without Smith. The Ravens have seen the vast potential of Marlon Humphrey in flashes this season. In order to get a win in Pittsburgh, Humphrey, no matter who he is covering, must prove to the nation why he was the right pick.