The Baltimore Ravens revamped and reloaded their secondary this offseason as they continue their recent trend of investing in pass coverage. After finishing dead last in pass defense in 2021, albeit due to injuries at both safety and cornerback, they replenished their ranks at both positions with veteran free agents and significant draft capital.
The Ravens signed free safety Marcus Williams in free agency and still have safety Chuck Clark on a team-friendly contract. However, that didn’t stop General Manager Eric DeCosta from taking Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton with the No. 14 overall pick in the the draft. In the fourth round, DeCosta doubled down at cornerback with the selections of Alabama’s Jalyn Armour-Davis and Houston’s Damarion Williams.
All three have impressed throughout the spring and went into the summer break on a high note after standout performances in mandatory minicamp last week, which has their coaches and veteran teammates excited for the future.
The building, media and fanbase at large have been buzzing about the ways in which Hamilton can be deployed as a dynamic defensive chess piece. First-year Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald says that the former member of the Fight Irish is “as advertised.”
“He’s doing the things that we’re expecting him to do,” Macdonald said. “Really, with any rookie and the young guys, the challenge for them is keep finding new stuff to screw up...He’s right on schedule, but we don’t tell him that – try to provide some sense of urgency for him. But he’ll get there. [I’m] really pleased with Kyle.”
Hamilton was one of the team’s most consistent performers in OTAs and minicamp. While some media members that regularly cover the team already believe he is beyond his years, Head Coach John Harbaugh says he still makes the occasional rookie mistake. Harbaugh, though, praised his intelligence and ability to swiftly adapt.
“He looks like a very talented rookie, and I would say, a very smart rookie,” Harbaugh said. “His sense of urgency drops a little bit when he’s not exactly sure what to do, but he is a quick learner, and when he knows what to do, you see that quick reaction time.”
Pass Game Coordinator and Secondary Coach Chris Hewitt echoed similar sentiments to Harbaugh. He vowed that by the beginning of the regular season, Hamilton will have an even better grasp of the playbook and his responsibilities in the scheme.
“I promise you, that when the first game comes, he’ll know what he’s supposed to be doing and he won’t be making mistakes that he made today,” Hewitt said on the second day of camp. “He’s not an error repeater, he’s on top of his job.”
Hamilton is a generational talent whose rare athletic traits and measurables are matched by his instincts, intellect and high processing speed that combined, allows him to make plays all over the field.
“He’s extremely instinctive, has ‘go-go gadget’ arms, he’s six-foot-four, agile,” Hewitt said. “He’s the total package. We’re very, very happy with him.”
Williams has liked what he has seen so far from the rookie and is excited to both see him grow and for the various potential ways in which he can be deployed.
“It’s good, always adding extra pieces to your defense,” Marcus Williams said. “It’s always good, [the] versatility and having depth. I think we’ll keep seeing what he can do day-by-day. I think he’ll be a good asset.”
Hewitt believes that Armour-Davis is the total package at cornerback with the measurables and athleticism he possesses. He says that consistency is the key to unlocking the full potential of a late bloomer who didn’t wasn’t a full-time starter with the Crimson Tide until his last year.
“Jalyn’s a great corner. He has the speed; he has everything that you want in a corner,” Hewitt said. “He has the height, speed, change of direction, he has all of that great stuff. Now it’s all about experience and being able to do it on a consistent level.”
Damarion “Pepe” Williams is considered undersized at 5-foot-10 but what he lacks in preferred measurables, he more than makes up for with his ability to be a feisty competitor that is sticky in coverage. He showed off his athleticism and ball skills on the same play by making a leaping interception on a pass from quarterback Anthony Brown on the second day of minicamp.
“He might not be the fastest and he might not be the biggest, but I guarantee you [that] the kid has got the biggest heart and he’s a good football player,” Hewitt said. “I always bet on good football players to go out there and do their job. That kid plays with great energy, and he’s going to make us better as a team. I really love the kid and I think he’s going to have a great future.”
All three rookie defensive backs appear poised to have bright futures with the team as long as they can continue to learn and grow. Hamilton is expected to play the most snaps out of the bunch in 2022, but Armour-Davis could see regular snaps at outside corner and Williams will be in competition or at least in rotation in the slot.