Baltimore Ravens star cornerback Marlon Humphrey is certainly disappointed to miss the rest of the 2021 season with a torn pectoral muscle, but he’s confident that Baltimore’s defense is in good hands with his likely replacement, Chris Westry.
“Watch him work,” replied Humphrey to a tweet from the Ravens’ Ryan Mink calling Westry a “difference-maker” for Baltimore as they attempt to make their fourth playoff appearance in as many seasons.
But replacing Humphrey will be a tall task, even for the 6-foot-4 Westry, who’s shown flashes of his potential but is still unproven with only five games and one start in the NFL under his belt.
After signing with the Ravens in January, Westry impressed throughout the preseason, to the extent that Baltimore kept him on the 53-man roster and traded their own 2021 fifth-round draft pick – former Ohio State cornerback Shaun Wade – to the New England Patriots. Wade has only been active for two games in New England, playing only 16 total snaps.
An injury to Ravens All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters pressed Westry into a bigger role in Week 1 against the Las Vegas Raiders, and he responded with a solid game on both defense and special teams. He earned a 76.7 overall grade from Pro Football Focus for his contributions in both pass coverage and run defense, allowing only two catches on five targets and making three tackles on a career-high 33 snaps.
But a breakout from Westry was put on hold by a torn meniscus that held him out until the Ravens’ Week 10 loss to the Miami Dolphins, during which Westry put up another solid performance on a limited snap count.
Injuries to Anthony Averett and Jimmy Smith pressed Westry into playing 95% of Baltimore’s defense snaps against the Chicago Bears in Week 11, but he allowed more than 25 yards per reception when targeted. He was badly beaten by Bears receiver Marquise Goodwin for a go-ahead 49-yard touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Can Westry Replace Humphrey?
So, despite Humphrey’s confidence, Westry will have a lot of work to do if he wants to even come close to replacing his All-Pro teammate.
Both Humphrey and Westry have demonstrated a physical brand of cornerback play, but that’s about where the similarities end between the two.
Westry went undrafted out of the University of Kentucky in 2018, while Humphrey was taken by the Ravens with the 16th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft out of the University of Alabama. Westry has only 115 career regular-season defensive snaps to his name, 106 of which have come this season, while the two-time Pro Bowler Humphrey is just one snap shy of 4,000 in his career.
Westry does excel as a tackler – he has yet to miss a tackle in his three-year career across the preseason and regular season – while Humphrey has occasionally struggled to bring down receivers after the catch this season, though he does have the second-most tackles among the Ravens in 2021.
The first step for Westry to step up in Baltimore is to get healthy. He missed the Ravens’ Week 12 and 13 games with a thigh injury, but Ravens head coach John Harbaugh appears hopeful that he will return.
When asked about a return this week from Westry and recently-promoted cornerback Kevon Seymour who has been on the COVID-19 Reserve list since November 29, Harbaugh responded on December 6, “We feel confident about both of those guys.”
Humphrey, Fellower NFLers React to Injury
Humphrey tweeted, “Tough game,” immediately following the Ravens’ December 5 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, during which Humphrey suffered his injury trying to stop a late go-ahead touchdown by Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson.
While Humphrey is surely upset over missing the rest of the season, he’s appeared to maintain good spirits. He’s tweeted, “Life is good,” on both December 6 and December 7, with supportive replies from fellow injured Raven DeShon Elliott and Lacie DeCosta, the wife of Ravens general manager Eric Decosta.
Humphrey will spend the remainder of the year on the sidelines, but his continued leadership of the Ravens defense will be key in maintaining Baltimore’s playoff hopes.