Heartbreaking news came out of Owings Mills on Thursday, as it was confirmed by the Ravens that second year cornerback Tavon Young tore his ACL while participating in OTA drills. The injury is largely unfortuneate as Young had a fantastic rookie season, and looked to be in line to win the slot corner job this year.
However, the Ravens must now find a new player to man that spot.
First, the Ravens have been down this road before. Injuries to the secondary are nothing new to this team. But yet again, general manager Ozzie Newsome was three steps ahead, and loaded up the Ravens secondary with a lot of depth. That is why there is no clear cut option to fill the empty spot, the Ravens have many viable and talented players who could step in.
In my mind, this is actually a perfect situation for Marlon Humphrey. Many, including myself, have debated whether or not Humphrey or new signee Brandon Carr should be the starting corner opposite Jimmy Smith. I previously wrote that Carr’s experience will win him the battle against Humphrey.
However, the Ravens should now try to teach Humphrey the position that he will be more likely to play in his rookie year, slot corner. According to Ravens beat writer Bo Smolka, this won’t be totally new to Humphrey.
Marlon Humphrey said he played some slot corner in practice at Alabama, never in a game. Webb, Canady figure to be in mix— Bo Smolka (@bsmolka) June 2, 2017
The Ravens will help Humphrey refine his skills in the slot, and thus give him an oppurtunity to see the field a lot more in his rookie season than originally expected. If this transition to slot corner, which will only last one year anyway, takes Humphrey some time, then Lardarius Webb can play the position in the meantime.
Once Humphrey is ready, he will jump into the slot, a position that will help him ease into the NFL. He won’t have to deal with the pressure of facing a team’s best or second best receiver while also trying to adjust to the NFL and the Ravens complicated defensive scheme. In addition, Humphrey will be able to refine his ball skills, as he won’t find a ton of slot receivers that will be able to fight with him in the air. Finally, playing the slot will give Humphrey game experinces in trying to find the ball in the air on a deep throw to a quick and shifty slot receiver (someone like Chris Hogan). Humphrey struggled to find the ball in college.
Humphrey will thus enter his second year with a full season, or at least close to it, of NFL experience under his belt, which will help him greatly when he moves back outside, the position he was drafted to play.
The slot wasn’t the position that Marlon Humphrey was drafted to play. No one expected that the Ravens would have an injury to a key player so early. But the Ravens thrive on a next-man-up mentality. Getting a year to acclimate to the NFL in the slot could really help provide a strong foundation for Humphrey, a foundation that may be crucial in the Alabama product’s development into a star corner on the outside in the future.