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John Harbaugh says Brandon Stephens will “focus more” on playing safety

Another new development for the versatile defensive back

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

While addressing the media following the Ravens second day of rookie minicamp on Saturday, head coach John Harbaugh offered some insight into the team’s plans for third-year defensive back Brandon Stephens.

“We’re gonna start him off at safety, and work as a safety/corner combination” Harbaugh said. “He’s gonna focus more on safety. He’s gotten a lot of reps at corner so far.” He also added that Stephens’ “superpower” is that he can play all five positions in the secondary and the team loves his versatility.

Stephens played mostly cornerback in college at SMU. Then, during his rookie season, the Ravens transitioned him into more of a safety role. He wound up starting 11 games in his first year and played over 700 defensive snaps, most of which came at free safety.

In 2022, however, following the additions of Marcus Williams and Kyle Hamilton, Stephens saw more time at cornerback. Of his 453 total snaps on defense, 330 of them came playing outside corner, which was the third-highest mark on the team.

Given the Ravens’ lack of proven depth at cornerback, this new development comes as a bit of a surprise. However, the Ravens did just sign veteran Rock Ya-Sin and draft another cornerback in Kyu Blu Kelly, so they may view safety as Stephens’ best chance to play.

The Ravens traded Chuck Clark earlier this offseason while re-signing Geno Stone, leaving four safeties on the depth chart in Williams, Hamilton, Stone and Ar’Darius Washington. We saw a lot of three-safety packages from Mike Macdonald’s defense in 2022 featuring Hamilton on the field in a nickel/slot role alongside Clark and Williams both. The idea could be to mix in Stephens on the field as a third safety as well, or primary slot defender.

It’s worth noting, too, that Harbaugh also said there’s still a chance the Ravens could add to the cornerback room via free agency, hinting at re-signing Marcus Peters as a possibility.

“I don’t think you can ever close the door on any personnel move,” Harbaugh said. “Whoever it might be, you’d probably ask me about Marcus [Peters] and whatever other corners are out there . . . you don’t close the door on good players and good people. We’ll see how it goes.”

This could suggest that the Ravens are focusing Stephens in part because they intend on filling another cornerback spot via re-signing Peters or adding another free agent. Either way, that’s certainly something to watch for in the coming weeks and months.