It’s hard to believe Tony Jefferson is only entering his third season with the Ravens, as it feels he’s been in Baltimore for awhile now. The veteran safety has been a fairly consistent contributor since joining the team and despite some consistencies, he’s been important to the defense’s overall success.
Compared to other players in the secondary, Jefferson has a more hard-hitting play style. It’s a nice complement to the man coverage skills that Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, and other possess, and should also mesh well with the ball-hawking style of Earl Thomas.
Here are four goals for Jefferson heading into the 2019-20 season. Be sure to leave your thoughts down below and join the conversation!
1) Improve in coverage
The main critique of Jefferson’s game in recent years has been his performance in pass coverage, which, to be kind, has left much to be desired. Too often when left on an island with an opposing receiver or tight end, Jefferson has given up a completion, some of which included touchdown receptions. With Earl Thomas roaming in the secondary now, Jefferson will likely be able to play closer to the line of scrimmage and act as a ball-stopper in the box area. Still, there will be some occurrences throughout the season where he’s tasked with a coverage assignment. Given it’s perhaps the biggest weakness in his game, Jefferson should strive to improve in pass coverage. Expecting him to suddenly become a shutdown cover guy is unrealistic and unecessary, but even the slightest of improvements will make him a much more complete player.
2) Post career-highs in tackles and forced fumbles
Jefferson is a team-first guy, but striving for personal-bests in certain statistics along the path of trying to win is never a bad thing. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the addition of Thomas could potentially pay dividends for Jefferson by allowing him to spend more time near the line of scrimmage as opposed to dropping back in coverage. He’s always been at his best roaming in the box and pursing ball-carriers. Jefferson’s career-high in total tackles in a single season came in 2016, when he posted 96. In 2015, he recorded a career-high in forced fumbles with three. The stage is set for Jefferson to potentially eclipse these numbers. Patrolling the box area, Jefferson will have plenty of opportunities to tackle opponents and force turnovers.
3) Set the tone for the defense
As he enters his third season in Baltimore, it’s hard to believe Jefferson is actually a relatively tenured player on the Ravens defense. Jefferson is an established product and veteran presence, which can’t be said for many of the younger, relatively unproven players set to compete for snaps. Jefferson is a vibrant individual and gives off an infectious energy, both on and off the field. He doesn’t necessarily need to take on a vocal leadership role but with Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley gone, the defense needs to feed off someone. Jefferson should look to set the tone for the rest of the unit by playing his game and getting others energized.
4) Prove his worth
As I touched on in an article last week, sophomore DeShon Elliott has been making a big impact this spring and has high upside. Given his skill set and Jefferson’s contract, it’s possible that the Ravens could look to move in a different direction and give the younger, cheaper Elliott a starting role after this season. This is obviously a hypothetical, however, as we’ve yet to seen Elliott play meaningful regular season minutes. Still, if he continues on his upward trend, he’ll certainly be clipping at Jefferson’s heels and serve as a potential in-house replacement. A big season from Jefferson, however, would almost certainly ensure he’s back next season and probably plays out his contract.