There was a time not so long ago that Baltimore Ravens cornerback Tavon Young was regarded as one of the better slot defenders in the NFL. This year, he is out to prove that he still is, and that people have just forgotten because he has missed so much time due to injuries in recent years.
A fourth-round pick out of Temple in 2016, Young emerged as a starter as a rookie, actually spending a lot of time playing outside that year before gradually having the opportunity to play in his more natural and suited position outside. But he’s only played in 17 games since then.
While he managed to play 15 games in 2018, he missed all of the 2017 and 2019 due to injury, and he only played in two games last year as well. But he is on track to be in the starting lineup next month for the Ravens once again.
“It’s always good to get back on the field. Those are the things that I missed – just coming out, walking through that door, walking down this hill, touching the grass”, he told reporters earlier this week during training camp. “You just miss your teammates; you just miss doing what you love. It’s always a blessing”.
In order to compensate for his absence last season, the Ravens moved Marlon Humphrey to the slot in sub-packages, primarily, having Jimmy Smith play on the outside opposite Marcus Peters. For obvious reasons, they are excited about the prospect of being able to leave Humphrey outside again. Still, Young has some more progress to make first.
“I think he’s still coming back”, defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said, noting that he is practicing in spurts. “As far as coming back from the knee injury, I think he’s right on schedule, as well. I think the preseason games will help him get back into game shape – that way – of playing and everything else. I haven’t seen him take a step backwards”.
The Ravens have still tried to insulate themselves, including bringing back Smith for another season. Iman Marshall is still a young player who missed last season. Shaun Wade is a rookie with high upside, and they drafted Brandon Stephens, as well.
But Young is their guy, if he can stay on the field. His missed season in 2017 came from a torn ACL. A neck injury cost him all of 2019, after signing a contract extension. He is currently recovering from a second ACL tear, in the same knee.
They’re patient with him because he’s earned it. He has a complete game, including against the run, with a couple of sacks in his background to boot. But even at 27, one has to wonder how many major injuries he can withstand, having missed 45 total games so far in his career out of a possible 78.