The fact that the Baltimore Ravens had arguably the most talented secondary in the NFL last season despite losing two starters along the way is commendable. They lost strong safety Tony Jefferson midseason due to a knee injury, and heh as since been released. Before the year even got underway, Tavon Young, their slot cornerback, went down with the second major injury of his career, after signing a lucrative contract extension.
That new deal made him the highest-paid full-time slot defender in the NFL, the Ravens trusting that he could stay healthy. Then he suffered a neck injury that required surgery. But he is back now and ready to take his place within a secondary that includes Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Earl Thomas.
“He looks healthy on the computer”, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale joked with reporters last week. “He says he’s healthy. He’s ready to go. Tavon is ready to go, and if he tells me he’s ready to go, I believe in him 100 percent. And he’ll be ready to go, so I’m excited about that”.
A fourth-round pick in 2016, he ended up playing in 16 games and starting 11 as a rookie, including as a full-time starter, recording two interceptions with five passes defensed. He missed all of his second season due to injury, but returned in 2018 to play in the slot, where he recorded four takeaways, with two touchdowns.
Young is Baltimore’s Mike Hilton, to hear John Harbaugh describe him. “If you have a versatile player that can play in there, can cover receivers, but is also willing to blitz, also willing to go in there and make tackles against the run like this guy is, it’s a big plus for you”, he said.
“We want to run a diverse defense. We want to bring guys, we want to cover guys, we want to change things up. You need versatile players that can do a lot, and that’s Tavon”.
Young’s injury last season, and the eventual acquisition of Peters, resulted in Humphrey moving back into the slot for most of the year, which is where he spent most of his rookie season after he worked his way up the depth chart.
Both Humphrey and Peters were named Pro Bowlers and first-team All-Pros last season. Humphrey recorded three interceptions with 14 passes defensed, forced two fumbles, and recovered three, returning two for touchdowns. Peters (including his time with the Rams (intercepted five passes, returning three for touchdowns, with 14 passes defensed. He led the NFL in interception return yards, for the third time in his five-year career.