Brandon Stephens The Latest Next Man Up For Ravens Following DeShon Elliott Injury

If the Ravens have gotten good at anything this year, other than heart-stopping finishes, it has been the ability to plug in new players for injured ones.

“We’re pretty much a billboard for ‘Next Man Up,'” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said earlier this year, “and that’s how every player in that locker room has to feel.”

The Ravens at one point had 17 players on injured reserve, including All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters, All-Pro tackle Ronnie Stanley and the team’s projected top three running backs. The IR list is down to 13 now, with tight end Nick Boyle moved from IR to the 53-man roster last week. He is expected to make his 2021 debut when the Ravens (6-2) visit Miami (2-7) in a “Thursday Night Football” matchup Nov. 11.

The latest next man up is rookie safety Brandon Stephens, who is expected to start in place of DeShon Elliott, the newest addition to the IR roll call after he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the win against the Vikings Nov. 7.

It’s another huge blow for Elliott, the Ravens’ athletic thumper of a safety who brings swagger to the secondary and is in his contract year. Elliott finishes the season with 23 tackles, one sack and one interception. But his Ravens career has been defined by injuries, beginning with a broken arm in the preseason that cost him his entire rookie season. In four years, Elliott will have missed 37 of 65 games.

Enter Stephens, a third-round draft pick who has already made two starts earlier this year when Elliott was sidelined by a quad injury.

“He’s young, but he’s willing to learn and get better and grow, and he’s still growing,” safety Chuck Clark said, “but he shows that he has a lot of upside as well.”

Stephens has 28 tackles and one pass defensed this year, with four additional tackles on special teams. He led the Ravens with 10 defensive stops, plus one on special teams, in the overtime win against the Colts. Stephens played every snap of that game in place of the injured Elliott.

Stephens (6-foot-1, 213 pounds) began his college career as a running back at UCLA before transferring to SMU, where he quickly became a starting cornerback.

The Ravens drafted Stephens with the idea of converting him to safety, and defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale has raved since training camp about Stephens’ potential and “chess piece” versatility.

The Ravens also could turn to veteran Jimmy Smith, who has gradually been making a transition from cornerback to safety, or second-year safety Geno Stone, who has played sparingly in seven games this year. Veterans Anthony Levine and Jordan Richards, recently re-signed to the practice squad, could be options, though both are almost exclusively special teams players at this stage of their careers.

“We’ve kind of dealt with this before,” cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “I hate losing my guys, especially the guys that are really energy-setter guys” such as Elliott.

“We’ve got some other guys that can fill in,” he added. “It will be a challenge, but I know, whether it’s Jimmy, or Geno, or B-Steve, whoever it is, I’m pretty confident in them and I know they’ll fit right in. I’m just ready to rock with whoever we’ve got out there.”

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Bo Smolka

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