After the Baltimore Ravens were able to sign veteran cornerback Brandon Carr in free agency, they were very excited about the prospect of being able to move second-year Tavon Young into the slot on a full-time basis, with Jimmy Smith of course being the other outside cornerback for the defense.
After Young went down for the season with a torn ACL, of course, the plans suddenly changed drastically. Another second-year cornerback, Maurice Canady, was then getting the slot reps with the first-team defense, but he suffered an injury early on in training camp and was just moved to injured reserve with the hope of seeing him return midseason.
But in the meantime, who is going to be in the nickel for the Ravens’ defense? They appear to have three options, but it seems that the consensus view is that they are likely to stick with a veteran in this instance. And just as a sidebar, Brandon Boykin is already on Baltimore’s injured reserve list, in case anybody was wondering.
But the veteran alluded to is Lardarius Webb, formerly a starting cornerback who moved to a starting safety last year. After they signed Tony Jefferson in free agency, however, Webb was released, and then later re-signed a month later at a lower contract.
Before he was a starting outside cornerback, however, Webb started in the slot as their nickel defender in his rookie season, and he played well in that role. He is of course much older now, at 31, but he is still a skilled player who otherwise does not have a role.
There are two other options, one being their rookie first-round pick, Marlon Humphrey, whom they talked about potentially playing in the slot, but he is already a raw prospect that to try to feed him two positions is a dangerous proposition. He also missed a lot of training camp and the preseason with injuries.
One final option could be another rookie, undrafted free agent Jaylen Hill, who has spent a lot of time in the slot with Young and Canady out. He did not play in the final preseason game, but in the first three, he recorded nine tackles with two interceptions and five passes defensed.
A 5’10”, 178-pounder out of Jacksonville State, Hill said that he had never played in the slot in college before coming to Baltimore, so he is also new to the position, but he would not be the first boundary corner bumped into the slot.
It will be interesting to see where the Ravens go with this position, both at the start of the season and by the end of the year, because this is certainly a situation that could evolve over the course of time. Considering that they lost perhaps their top two candidates here, it’s actually fairly impressive the potential options that remain to them.