Ravens head coach John Harbaugh confirmed that cornerback Tavon Young tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against the Houston Texans Sept. 20, but Harbaugh expressed confidence in third-year cornerback Anthony Averett, who figures to be one of the next men up in Young’s absence.
“Anthony is not a concern for us,” Harbaugh said at his weekly news conference Sept. 21. “He’s practiced really well. He’s played well when he’s played. … This will certainly be an opportunity to step in there and show what he can do.”
Unfortunately for Young and the Ravens, the team has plenty of experience compensating for the absence of Young.
Last year, with Young sidelined all season by a neck injury, Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey shifted inside and played primarily in the slot for the first time in his career.
Harbaugh wouldn’t elaborate on the Ravens’ long-term plan to address Young’s absence this time, saying, “We’ll see where we go. Knowing that we have options in the slot is really valuable.”
Veteran Jimmy Smith, who has evolved into a corner-safety-hybrid this year, is an option to return to his original outside cornerback position if Humphrey moves inside.
“We’ll have a plan for Monday night,” Harbaugh added, pointing toward the Ravens’ highly anticipated showdown Sept. 28 against Patrick Mahomes and the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs at M&T Bank Stadium.
Averett, a fourth-round pick out of Alabama in 2018, appeared in nine games last season, with three starts. He played every defensive snap in a Week 2 win against the Arizona Cardinals, but his playing time dropped sharply after the Ravens traded for Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters in midseason. A deep secondary that also featured veteran Brandon Carr afforded few opportunities for Averett to contribute on defense.
He finished the season with 14 tackles on defense and two passes defensed but was a game day inactive in five of the final six regular-season games as well as the playoff loss to Tennessee.
But now Carr is gone, Smith is playing some safety, and Averett is viewed as the top reserve outside cornerback; when Humphrey briefly left the Week 1 win over Cleveland it was Averett, not Smith, who stepped into Humphrey’s spot.
Averett played 23 snaps against the Texans and was credited with four tackles, matching a career high. He was also flagged for an illegal-contact penalty that Harbaugh disagreed with, saying after reviewing the game film, “can’t fault the coverage there.”
Harbaugh acknowledged that the Texans tried to pick on Averett — “They were trying to find him a little bit” — and the Ravens and Averett might as well get used to that. When an opposing quarterback looks across the line, he will surely locate Humphrey and Peters, both Pro Bowl cornerbacks who have already made game-changing plays this season, and look for a more favorable matchup elsewhere.
That puts the onus on Averett, but Harbaugh expressed no reservations about the third-year cornerback.
“We’re not concerned about Anthony,” Harbaugh said. “We’re excited to see him play.”
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