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John Harbaugh Says Secondary Will Rely On Mixing And Matching, Including Tavon Young Outside, After Humphrey Injury

As much as we want to complain about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the injuries that they have faced this year, I’m not sure anybody in the NFL has a longer list of grievances with the football gods to that end than do the Baltimore Ravens, who still lead the AFC North.

Having already played the entire season without one of their starting cornerbacks, Marcus Peters, they just this week placed their other starter, Marlon Humphrey, on the Reserve/Injured List, as well. He suffered a shoulder injury on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers while attempting to tackle Diontae Johnson on the go-ahead touchdown.

Where does that leave them in the secondary? Well, it’s an all-hands-on-deck situation, head coach John Harbaugh acknowledging that it will take a lot mixing and matching on the back end to piece things together. They have already been doing that quite a bit, having also lost starting safety DeShon Elliott earlier in the year.

That calls upon the oft-injured Tavon Young to step up and play a more diverse role, spending more time on the outside, even though he is best suited to the slot. According to Pro Football Focus, of the 330 snaps he has played at cornerback so far this year, 266 have come in the slot, and only 64 out wide.

He’s played outside this year a number of snaps, so far”, Harbaugh said of Young when asked about how his role will change in light of the Humphrey injury. “So, he’ll be inside. He’ll be outside. We’ll match it up the way we do, mix it up with coverages and personnel groups. I’m sure he’ll be ready to go, and he’ll play well”.

Young actually did play a lot outside during his rookie season back in 2016, simply because that is where there was an open spot, logging 632 snaps there and just 114 in the slot. He has only played about 100 snaps out wide since then, however, including the numbers cited above for 2021. But he won’t be the only one asked to adjust.

The corners have to play inside and outside, those who do”, Harbaugh said. “Some of them are strictly outside. Some can play both. Some are strictly inside. It’s a lot of young guys now. They’ve been practicing well, and we’ll see how they play. I’m very confident they’re going to play well. I know they’re going to play fast and hard”.

The Steelers have used a number of players in the secondary this year as well, especially since Cameron Sutton is capable of playing inside and outside, as well as at safety, and with Tre Norwood also a safety and slot defender. Pittsburgh ranks in the middle of the pack in pass defense, however; the Ravens are toward the end, and have just lost their best remaining defensive back.

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