Training camp is now in full swing around the NFL and preseason is just days away. While there are some potential acquisitions that could still take place, most major moves have already long transpired in free agency and the draft.
Therefore, we have a pretty good idea of what the AFC North teams’ rosters will look like in 2022. Let’s continue breaking down where position groups stand in the division, this time analyzing the uber-talented cornerback groups.
Projected starters: Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Kyle Fuller
Depth: Brandon Stephens, Jalyn Armour-Davis, Damarion Williams
At the peak of their powers, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters form one of the league’s top cornerback duos. Peters is returning from a torn ACL that sidelined him for the entire 2021 season, while Humphrey suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 12.
If both players are back in form, the Ravens will have a high-end cornerback group overall after re-stocking their depth this offseason. They replaced three lost veterans by signing Kyle Fuller to a one-year deal and drafting two rookies in the fourth round.
Fuller could be the team’s primary nickel cornerback, or that role may be assigned to promising rising sophomore Brandon Stephens. Stephens is projected to play more corner this year after starting 11 games at safety last season.
Projected starters: Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, Greg Newsome II
Depth: Martin Emerson Jr., A.J. Green, Herb Miller
The Browns have invested a number of high draft picks at the cornerback position in recent years, and it’s now starting to pay dividends.
Denzel Ward is well-established now as one of the league’s best corners, a status he re-solidified after a strong 2021 season. Greg Newsome II, who the Browns drafted No. 26 overall last year, had an impressive rookie campaign, while Greedy Williams had his best season to date.
In terms of top-end talent, the Browns give the Ravens a strong run for their money at the position. It’s the Ravens’ superior depth, though, that gives them a slight edge. Behind their starting trio is 2022 fourth-round pick Martin Emerson Jr.
Projected starters: Chidobe Awuzie, Eli Apple, Mike Hilton
Depth: Cam Taylor-Britt, Tre Flowers, Dax Hill
Compared to where they’ve been in recent years, the Bengals are in a great spot at cornerback. Their 2021 free agent investments in Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton proved to be worthwhile, as the veteran pair helped stabilize the position for Cincinnati.
Awuzie developed into a high-level coverage cornerback last season, while Hilton again performed like one of the league’s better nickel corners. Eli Apple started 15 games for the Bengals last season and while he was on the wrong end of some poor plays, he had some nice moments as well.
The Bengals drafted Michigan’s Dax Hill, a hybrid nickel/safety type defender, at the end of this year’s first round. They also drafted Cam Taylor-Britt in the middle rounds, giving themselves a nice depth trio along with veteran Tre Flowers.
Projected starters: Levi Wallace, Ahkello Witherspoon, Cameron Sutton
Depth: James Pierre, Justin Layne, Tre Norwood
The Steelers re-signed Ahkello Witherspoon and acquired Levi Wallace in free agency, but will no longer have veteran Joe Haden in mix. Haden has been a top cornerback and regular starter in Pittsburgh dating back several seasons, so the Steelers now have a void at the No. 1 corner spot.
Their three projected starters are all established veterans playing on the second contracts of their careers. Levi Wallace was a key member of the Buffalo Bills’ top-ranked pass defense in 2021, and will have to shoulder a heavy burden for this Steelers group.
This cornerback room may prove to be solid but compared to the other groups in the division, there isn’t a ton of upside or exciting playmaking potential.
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