Ravens Have Faith In Cornerback Depth Amidst Injury Uncertainty

Ravens CB Brandon Stephens

Getty Ravens CB Brandon Stephens breaks up a pass in regular season game on September 11, 2022

The Baltimore Ravens‘ entire roster was decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball in 2021 but they were hit especially hard in the secondary. One of their primary offseason objectives was to reinforce their defensive backfield and while all of their talented dynamic safeties are healthy, the same can’t be said for the health status of their cornerback depth chart.

They lost one of their key depth pieces for the remainder of the year when veteran Kyle Fuller tore his ACL in the season opener. On Thursday, September 15, 2022, second-year pro Brandon Stephens didn’t practice after being a limited participant the day before with a groin injury and two-time Pro Bowler Marlon Humphrey popped up on the injury report as a limited participant in practice due to a groin injury.

One positive development on the injury front at the position that came Thursday was that veteran Marcus Peters was a full participant in practice since he suffered a torn ACL that cost him the entire 2021 season. Nevertheless, the Ravens are confident in the depth they have remaining and the overall versatility of all their defensive backs.

“The thing with our team is that we’re flexible enough back there where no matter what happens, we feel like we’re going to end up in a good spot, and guys can play different positions,” defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald said in a press conference on September 15, 2022. “When you’re making a game plan, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket, and that goes for all the positions.”

Even if Stephens and or Humphrey were to not play in Week 2 when the Miami Dolphins come to town for the team’s home opener, their cupboard isn’t bare at cornerback. Peters will likely make his debut after being a game-time decision last week and they have a pair of talented rookie corners that they selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft in Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion ‘Pepe’ Williams.

The two first-year pros combined to play 16 total snaps on defense against the New York Jets in Week 1 with Williams seeing the most between them with 13. While the season opener was Armour-Davis’ NFL debut after he missed the entire preseason with different injuries, Williams was one the brightest stars for the Ravens through their first two exhibition games before sitting out the finale. He recorded three total tackles, a pass breakup, and an interception.

They are both likely in store for increased roles on defense going forward given Fuller’s indefinite injury and it will start on Sunday, September 18, 2022, against a dangerous pair of playmaking wide receivers that possess elite speed in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.

“When you face a team like this, you have to really make sure you’re on your fundamentals; running out of the stacks, pursuit angles are good, communication in the backend, pre-snap and post-snap,” Macdonald said.

The Ravens also have a trio of experienced veterans on their practice squad to choose from that they could call upon on the day of the game. Kevon Seymour and Daryl Worley played in a combined 10 regular season games and made two starts with the team in 2021 and the recently signed T.J. Carrie has 54 career starts during his time with three different teams.

Communication Is Key To Preventing Big Plays

An athlete’s ability to receive and relay information with teammates in every sport. It is especially vital in football among members of the secondary because they need to be able to clearly communicate with each other pre and post-snap. Macdonald was “pleased” by what he saw in that aspect from the Ravens’ unit against the Jets in Week 1 and hopes it continues to grow and strengthen.

“The thing that I’m most pleased with is the sense of urgency from our guys about communication,” Macdonald said. “Not that it wasn’t there, but it really feels like the most buy-in we’ve felt to make calls since we got here over the last couple weeks. That’s something that we’re definitely harping on. You always hear the saying, ‘A loud defense is a good defense,’ and that’s what we’re trying to be.”

Odafe Oweh Unselfishly Welcomes Double Teams

As a rookie, the 2021first round pick flashed his playmaking potential by finishing second on the team in sacks with five, tied for second in quarterback hits with 15, and led the team in forced fumbles with three. While he expected to be on the radar of opposing offense more than he was last year coming into 2022, Oweh saw more double-team blocks than he anticipated in the season opener.

“I got doubled a lot at Penn State, but I didn’t think it would be like that the first game of the season,” Oweh said on September 15, 2022. “But it’s a respect thing. I’ve just got to find ways to get past that.”

Even if he isn’t the one credited with a sack more often than not, as long as the opposing quarterback gets taken down, he could care less. Oweh gladly welcomes the extra attention because it will create more opportunities for the Ravens’ interior defense line to generate pressure up the middle and sack signal callers that step up in the pocket to avoid him coming off the edge.

“If I’m doing my job, I’m causing pressure and causing them to step up,” Oweh said. “Guys like (Justin) Madubuike and Michael Pierce, Urb (Brent Urban), Calais (Campbell) can get the sack. Obviously, they were eating on their own. I want to get my plays too, but if everyone’s eating I’m good.”