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Geno Stone Confident He Can Step Into Starting Job

S Geno Stone
S Geno Stone

It was Week 4 of the 2019 season and Tony Jefferson suffered a major knee injury in Pittsburgh. In stepped Chuck Clark, and he grabbed the bull by the horns, helping to steady a defense that finished top-5 in points and yards allowed.

Fast forward three years and the Ravens just lost safety Marcus Williams, a centerpiece of their defense and big-time free-agent addition, to a dislocated wrist that will sideline him for a significant amount of time. This time, it's Geno Stone's turn, and he's trying to follow the same path Clark did three years ago.

"I feel like any time I step onto the field, I have the ability to show I'm a starter in this league," Stone said Wednesday. "I always prepare to be a starter every week. I sit next to Chuck so I can learn as much as I can from him."

Stone and Clark share a similar NFL journey. They were both late-round draft picks (Stone in the seventh round and Clark in the sixth). They both were team captains at major college programs (Stone from Iowa and Clark from Virginia Tech). They both were in their third NFL years after two seasons spent as occasional defensive fill-ins and special teams standouts.

They've been sitting next to each other in meetings for the past couple years, with Stone absorbing Clark's meticulous study habits and professionalism. Now, in Sunday's Week 6 game against the New York Giants, they'll probably be starting next to each other, too.

"I've been there before. I know where he's at," Clark said. "It's like, 'Wait till I get my opportunity. I'm going to take it and run with it.' I know I don't have to say too much to him. He's going to be locked in for sure."

Stone stepped in for Williams during the second half of Sunday's 19-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals and played well. He wasn't targeted in 24 pass coverage reps, per Pro Football Focus.

It's not the first time he has been thrust into action. Last year, he played every single defensive snap in the Green Bay Packers game and was credited with giving up just two catches for 25 yards. Stone also got a lot of action in the finale against Pittsburgh and picked off Ben Roethlisberger.

Stone made two interceptions in a 2021 preseason game, then another acrobatic pick in a preseason start this year versus the Titans. While the Ravens will miss Williams, a widely-respected playmaker with a team-leading three interceptions, Baltimore also feels Stone has a nose for the football and can help carry on their early-season penchant for takeaways.

"He's always around the ball," Clark said. "We've seen him do it in training camp, we've seen him do it OTAs, we've seen him do it in games before. It's just time to go out there and prove it to everybody else."

Stone has already been through the NFL wringer and come out the other side. During his rookie season, the Ravens released him twice. After the second time, he signed with the Houston Texans, looking for a better opportunity for playing time. After that season ended, Stone knew he wanted to return to Baltimore.

"I had the full rookie experience," Stone said with a chuckle. "Got drafted, made the team, cut, practice squad, back on the 53-man roster, cut, go to a different team, free agency, then come back here.

"It wasn't like I had doubt in myself, but I was just trying to find a spot for myself with a team that trusted me. I knew it was the Ravens because when I got released, Coach [John] Harbaugh said 'Keep in touch.' When I got the call, I knew this was the place I wanted to be."

Stone won't be the only part of the Ravens' solution for replacing Williams. Rookie first-round pick Kyle Hamilton could also see more reps, and Harbaugh said both will have to step up and play well. The Ravens secondary has turned the corner after a rough outing against the Dolphins in Week 2, and it can't afford to go backwards.

"I approach the game the same way and everybody in the DB room does," Hamilton said. "We're all prepared to play at any moment. But obviously, with Marcus being out, he's one of the better players in our league. Not having him is definitely a disadvantage. But me, Geno, [Ar'Darius Washington], everybody in the room is going to do our best to fill that void and do well for the team."

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