The Baltimore Ravens have the league’s second-best secondary, according to Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus. They were listed only behind the Denver Broncos in PFF’s annual secondary rankings.
Linsey explained why he ranked the Ravens’ unit second in the NFL:
Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters were the only teammates to find themselves inside the top 10 of PFF’s outside cornerback rankings entering the 2021 season. Granted, Humphrey has spent much of the past two years in the slot, but a healthy Tavon Young could allow him to play more on the outside next year. Humphrey is the only cornerback in the NFL with coverage grades of at least 80.0 from both the slot and outside since 2017. He brings a rare and valuable skill set to Baltimore’s secondary, which also received solid play from Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott in 2020.
Investing in the Secondary
The Ravens spot at the top of the list will come as no surprise to those who have followed general manager Eric DeCosta’s roster construction in recent years. The Ravens have zigged where the rest of the league has zagged, opting to invest heavily in their secondary and refusing to pay a premium for pass rushing talent. Their recent signing of All-Pro outside linebacker Justin Houston to a one year, $4 million deal demonstrates their ability to find value on the edge.
Instead, the Ravens have emphasized their secondary when building their roster, signing Humphrey to a five year extension worth almost $100 million last October, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. They also traded for former Rams and Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters in 2019 before signing him to a three-year, $42 million extension, according to Schefter. The All-Pro duo were the only teammates in the top-10 of PFF’s 2021 outside cornerback rankings.
Schefter also reported that the Ravens made Tavon Young the NFL’s highest-paid nickel back, extending him for three years and $25.8 million in 2019. His recent injuries forced Humphrey into the slot, but with Young healthy, the Ravens will boast one of the league’s best cornerback trios, with savvy veteran Jimmy Smith also in the mix.
Defensive Back Depth
As a result, the Ravens spent the offseason adding depth to their defensive back corps, drafting Brandon Stephens out of SMU in the third round and Ohio State’s Shaun Wade in the fifth. Stephens played corner in college, but he’s been taking snaps at safety in training camp thus far, according to SB Nation’s Spencer Schultz. Wade was rated as a first-round talent in 2020, but he struggled after he opted-in for another season as a Buckeye. He’ll likely back up Young in the slot. Competing for a spot behind them will be Chris Westry, who has been turning heads in camp, per Schultz.
The Ravens have a playmaking duo at safety in Deshon Elliott and Chuck Clark. Elliott took over the starting job after the Ravens released Earl Thomas last year, and Clark emerged as a defensive leader in 2019. Backing them up will be a collection of young safeties – Nigel Warrior, Geno Stone, and undrafted free agent Ar’Darius Washington – as well as veteran and team leader Anthony Levine, Sr.
With All-Pro starters and quality depth, the Ravens are well-positioned to limit opponents’ passing offenses in 2021.