One of the biggest issues facing the Ravens coming into this offseason was finding a reliable cornerback to line up across the field from Jimmy Smith. General manager Ozzie Newsome and his staff have absolutely accomplished that goal, adding not one, but two players who could fill that spot. Those players are free agent signee Brandon Carr, and first round draft pick Marlon Humphrey. However, with just one spot up for grabs, will it be the veteran who is the Week One starter, or will it be the rookie?
Typically, with the occasional exception for quarterbacks, teams draft a player in the first round because they will be an immediate starter. But in 2017, I don’t believe that the Ravens first round pick will be the Week One starter. Instead, Brandon Carr will be the Week One starter across from Jimmy Smith, and here’s why.
Carr’s biggest advantage over Marlon Humphrey in this competition is his experience. Carr came into the NFL in 2008, and has not missed a single game that his team has played since. In fact, Carr is the active NFL leader for most consecutive games played. As a result he has a lot of experience, and this includes playing in four playoff games.
Over the course of his career, not only has Carr been reliable to stay on the field, but he also has been reliable in his ability to stop wide receivers. In six of his nine NFL seasons, Carr has received a Pro Football Focus grade of over 73. In three different seasons, Carr had a grade of over 80. Last year, Carr received a 75.3 grade, which, while not as high as some of his previous grades, was good to see as Carr was coming off two straight bad seasons in 2014 and 2015.
I personally believe that Marlon Humphrey is a much more talented player than Carr, but he will need to develop before he is ready to start. This is why the signing of Carr is perfect, it gives Humphrey the chance to improve and become the lockdown corner that he has the potential to be, all without being immediately thrown into the fire. Even if Humphrey doesn’t start a single game this season, the Ravens will still be excellent on defense, because Carr is no scrub. And, better yet, if anyone in the secondary is to get hurt, then Humphrey provides incredible depth.
To crack the starting lineup, what does Humphrey need to do? The biggest thing, as I wrote about when I did a film study of Humphrey, is that he needs to work on his skills at the catch point. Humphrey struggled at times against deep balls because his ball skills and technique in the air isn’t the best. Once he is able to improve in that aspect of the game, Humphrey will be able to start over Carr. However, that will not come as early as Week One.