Ravens Will Lean on CB Depth After Peters Injury

Ravens Anthony Averett

Getty Baltimore Ravens cornerback Anthony Averett pursues a Buffalo Bills wide receiver during a January 2021 playoff game.

Coming into training camp, the Baltimore Ravens boasted arguably the best secondary in the NFL, with talent and youth at safety and cornerback.

They had so many good CBs that they traded rookie Shaun Wade to the New England Patriots once it was clear he wouldn’t make the 53-man roster.

After Marcus Peters’ injury, the Ravens are going to need every bit of secondary depth they have, with Jimmy Smith yet to fully return as well.

Peters won’t be easily replaced, either. He has excelled at cornerback for the Ravens since he was acquired in a midseason trade in 2019, earning a 85.5 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus on his way to his second first-team All-Pro selection.

He made a splash in his first game as a Raven, intercepting a pass from Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and taking it to the house, the first of two pick-sixes for Peters after he arrived in Baltimore.

He turned in a solid performance in 2020 as well, recording four interceptions and forcing four fumbles.

Peters entered this season expected to start at cornerback opposite Marlon Humphrey, but with his injury, the Ravens will need another defensive back to step up and play outside cornerback.

Luckily, they have quality depth on their roster already, with additional options available via free agency or trade.

Averett, Westry to Step Up

Fourth-year corner Anthony Averett is likely the next man up with Peters out for the season. He’s been a trusted backup for the past two seasons, capably stepping in when other Ravens’ corners picked up injuries or tested positive for COVID-19.

Averett flew under the radar this preseason, but Ravens defensive coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale called him the team’s third-best cornerback in August, saying he has “All-Pro talent.”

The Alabama product has steadily improved each season since he was drafted by the Ravens in the fourth-round in 2018, and his snap count has increased commensurately.

In his rookie season, Averett mostly played special teams, only logging 71 snaps on defense, but last year, he played 33% of the Ravens’ defensive snaps. With a significantly increased role this year, Averett could break out at the perfect time, as he’s set to hit free agency after his rookie deal expires in 2022.

Chris Westry, a 2019 undrafted free agent, consistently impressed throughout training camp with his coverage skills and solid tackling. He blends a 6-foot-4, almost 200-pound frame with elite speed, running a 4.31-second 40-yard dash at his pro day in 2019.

With Humphrey and Smith to learn from, Westry could develop rapidly into a reliable outside cornerback if his technique can reach the same level as his physical gifts.

While Tavon Young is not a candidate to step into Peters’ role, his return to form as one of the league’s top slot corners could offset the loss of the two-time All-Pro, as long as Young can stay healthy.

Potential Targets

The Ravens could also try to acquire another cornerback via trade or free agent signing.

In August, the Jacksonville Jaguars were rumored to be shopping cornerback C.J. Henderson, their first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Henderson started the team’s first eight games last season before a groin injury sidelined him for the rest of the year. The former Florida Gator did not quite live up to his billing as a top-10 pick, allowing a 110.2 passer rating when targeted during his rookie season.

The price for Henderson may have gone up, if he’s still available at all, after a solid preseason that saw him earn a 92.3 single coverage grade from PFF. But the Ravens have the draft capital to acquire him, and Henderson could be a particularly attractive option since he’s still on his rookie contract.

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/R/RobeNi00.htmNickell Robey-Coleman could be another target for the Ravens. Currently signed to the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad, the former L.A. Ram had a down year in 2020 after recording four straight seasons with a 70.0 or better overall grade from PFF, including grades of 80.7 and 82.6 in 2017 and 2018.

While he’s primarily a slot corner, Robey-Coleman would provide experienced depth and serve as an insurance policy against another injury to Tavon Young, which have forced Marlon Humphrey into the slot in the past two seasons. The Ravens want to avoid that this year, especially after losing Peters.

The Ravens could also roll the dice on veteran free agent Richard Sherman. He struggled with personal issues this year and injuries last season, but proved in 2019 that he can still be a top corner, recording three interceptions and 11 pass breakups and earning a 90.3 coverage grade from PFF.

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