Despite Emphasizing Cornerback Depth, Ravens Being Tested On Back End

Ravens Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey was removed from the league’s reserve/COVID-19 list Nov. 11, so he returned to practice that day and is expected to play against the New England Patriots Nov. 15.

That should help return some stability to a group that once was regarded as the deepest on the team but that has been beset by injuries since the summer, resorting to practice squad callups and a veteran free-agent signing to plug the gaps.

Longtime Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome liked to say, “You can never have too many corners,” and what appeared to be an embarrassment of riches this summer quickly thinned out:

• Cornerback Iman Marshall was lost for the season early in training camp;

• Tavon Young suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2;

• Anthony Averett was placed on injured reserve after suffering a shoulder injury against Philadelphia in Week 6;

• Humphrey went on the reserve/COVID-19 list after testing positive for the coronavirus.

With Humphrey sitting out, Terrell Bonds, who was promoted from the practice squad, played 87 percent of the snaps against the Colts as the top nickel back.

Then the Ravens lost yet another cornerback in that game, as undrafted rookie Khalil Dorsey, who was added to the 53-man roster primarily for his special teams play, suffered a dislocated shoulder. He became the fourth cornerback to hit injured reserve.

To replace Dorsey, the Ravens this week signed 13-year veteran Tramon Williams, who played 10 seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Williams, 37, worked out for the Ravens last week, and head coach John Harbaugh said he was impressed with what he saw.

“He was really in very good shape and he moved well, which is what you look for in a veteran player like that,” Harbaugh said. “He’s played a long time. We’re very happy with the fact that he’s got so much experience. …We feel like he’ll make a pretty smooth transition into our schemes.”

After undergoing testing via the league’s COVID protocols, Williams took part in his first Ravens workout Nov. 11.

One steady, constant presence in the Ravens’ cornerback group has been veteran Jimmy Smith, whose own career has been slowed by injuries — he has played all 16 games just twice in nine previous seasons. Brought back this year on a one-year deal, Smith’s return has proved to be a godsend. He has filled in as an outside corner when needed, or as a hybrid safety who can match up with an opponent’s bigger tight ends.

Smith has been a frequent occupant on the practice injury reports with back and Achilles injuries, and he missed the Nov. 11 practice with an ankle injury, but he has played in every game and ranks third in pass coverage among all cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus.

Through eight games, Smith has 23 tackles, one sack and one pass defensed.

“He’s playing great football,” Harbaugh said. “I think he’s played a lot of great football here, for sure. He’s one of the best corners in the league. I’ve always said that. I think he’s playing to that level this year.”

Although injuries have thinned the ranks, the Ravens have elite talent at the top, with a pair of Pro Bowl cornerbacks in Humphrey and Marcus Peters who have proved to be among the most disruptive in the league this season.

Humphrey has used his patented punch-out to produce four forced fumbles — tied for the NFL lead — and two of those were returned for touchdowns in Ravens wins. He also has an interception.

Peters has three forced fumbles — two the past two weeks — and three interceptions, giving him 30 in his career, the most of anyone in the league since 2015.

Led by those two, the Ravens rank tied for sixth in turnover ratio (plus-4) and have a takeaway in 21 straight games, the longest streak in the league.

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Bo Smolka

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