Ravens’ Cornerback Depth Chart Includes Multiple Playmakers

Ravens CB Damarion 'Pepe' Williams makes a tackle

Getty Ravens CB Damarion 'Pepe' Williams makes a tackle in a preseason game on August 21, 2022.

One of the hardest-hit positions during the Baltimore Ravens‘ injury-ravaged 2021 season was cornerback. They lost half of their All-Pro tandem before the season opener when Marcus Peters went down with a torn ACL, lost Marlon Humphrey after 12 games and were without Anthony Averett for the last two games of the season while their playoff hopes were still alive.

Ironically, the only cornerback who played in every game last season was the often-injured Tavon Young, who did so for just the second time in his career and first since he was a rookie in 2016.

After having to turn to veteran free agents Kevon Seymour, Daryl Worley and Robert Jackson, signed off the street with their postseason hopes on the line, the Ravens fortified the position this offseason.

General manager Eric DeCosta double-dipped in the fourth round of the draft, selecting cornerbacks Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion “Pepe” Williams, then signed two-time Pro Bowl veteran Kyle Fuller on May 31.

Though Armour-Davis sat out the Ravens’ 24-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals on August 21, Williams and Fuller came up with huge plays that could inspire confidence in their quality of cornerback depth. They both intercepted a pass of former Ravens backup quarterback Trace McSorley and looked good in coverage overall.

“Pepe just does it every day,” Harbaugh said in his August 23 press conference. “He does it in practice, he does it in games. He doesn’t get flustered at all. Just ‘Cover 3,’ he’s in the right spot on a bunch route, a little sit route right there, and he made the play.”

Williams played most of the game, giving a standout performance in every facet. On his lone tackle, he executed with perfect form, aggressively driving through the receiver and stopping him well short of the line to force a fourth down.

He was sticky in coverage and consistently stayed in phase with whomever he covered or whoever came into his zone. His most impressive play in coverage arguably came when he prevented rookie tight end Trey McBride from making a catch downfield. McBride, a second-round pick, was the 2021 recipient of the John Mackey Award given to the best tight end in college football. At 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, McBride is much bigger than Williams, who measures in at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds.

Fuller had a rough training camp, being on the wrong side of several highlight reel catches by ascending second-year wide receiver Rashod Bateman. But against the Cardinals, he showed on the first turnover of the game the instincts and ball skills that made him a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2018.

“Kyle played about a quarter or so in there and had the pick,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been nothing but what you expected, what you’ve seen his whole career ever since he got here. He’s doing great.”

Having Fuller provides the Ravens with not only quality but experienced depth on the outside, behind Peters and Humphrey. He’ll likely join Armour-Davis as a primary backup who could rotate in regularly to start the season as Peters continues to work back to full strength.

Young Defensive Linemen Are Stepping Up

Ravens third-round rookie Travis Jones has gotten most of the praise and fanfare through the first three weeks of the preseason, but he hasn’t been the only young player at the position who has looked impressive. Fourth-year pro Isaiah Mack, third-year pro Aaron Crawford and undrafted rookie Rayshad Nichols have flashed in each of the team’s first two exhibition games.

In the team’s win over the Cardinals, all three players were consistently disruptive defending the run and rushing the passer. Mack had a couple of key pressures that were nearly sacks but led to rushed throws for incompletions.

Crawford recorded a pair of tackles on some good run stops, and Nichols recorded three tackles, half a sack and multiple pressures.

“I thought they played well,” Harbaugh said. “Those guys were playing hard. They were fighting in there. We don’t have many of them, and you get in a game like that and you get a lot of snaps in the fourth quarter … That’s tough. You don’t have any kind of rotation at all because you’re not putting guys back in the game. Those guys really stepped up.”

With Jones expected to miss three to five weeks due to a minor hyperextension he suffered in his right knee in Arizona, the unheralded trio will have even more opportunities to make a final push to make the roster in the Ravens’ third and final preseason game August 27 against the Washington Commanders. All three are prime candidates for the practice squad if they get cut and clear waivers, but the likelihood of another team not claiming them (if they keep up their good work) is not high.

Availability of Key Starters for Week 1 Uncertain

The Ravens have been fortunate to avoid season-ending injuries, outside of linebacker Vince Biegel, who suffered a torn Achilles. However, they still being cautious with several recovering or recently injured players.

Two key starters on both sides of the ball who are still working their way back into football shape and may not be available for the season opener are franchise left tackle Ronnie Stanley and outside linebacker Tyus Bowser. When healthy, Stanley is among the elite players at his position in the entire league. Bowser led the team in sacks last season with a career-high seven and is one of the league’s best linebackers in coverage.

Harbaugh typically likes players returning from injuries to have between two to three weeks of practices under their belt before they suit up for a season game. With the regular-season opener less than three weeks away, they could potentially have one, both, or neither back in time to take on the New York Jets on September 1 at 1 p.m. Eastern time at MetLife Stadium.

“Ronnie and Tyus have both gone really hard with conditioning,” Harbaugh told reporters on August 23. “I watched Ronnie out here before practice with the trainers. He looks like he’s in really good shape and Tyus looks like he’s in really good shape. Could you speed it up here in practice if they both looked really good? You probably could. We’ll just have to see how it goes, see how they feel. A lot of it’s how a player feels at this point.”

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