Late for Work 12/7: Are Ravens Still a Serious Postseason Threat Without Marlon Humphrey?

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CB Marlon Humphrey

Are Ravens Still a Serious Postseason Threat Without Marlon Humphrey?

With Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey suffering a season-ending torn pectoral muscle on Sunday, the Ravens once again are faced with the daunting task of replacing a key player.

Humphrey is the seventh Ravens starter (not counting running back Gus Edwards) to suffer a season-ending injury this season, but this is perhaps the most devastating one, ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote.

"A two-time Pro Bowl cornerback, Humphrey is the Ravens' most talented defender, who can match up against the opposition's top wide receiver and rip the ball away with his physical play. Since being the No. 16 overall pick in 2017, he is one of two NFL players with at least 50 passes broken up and 10 forced fumbles (safety Logan Ryan is the other)," Hensley wrote.

The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec called Humphrey's injury "one of the most damaging injury setbacks for the Ravens in a season full of them."

"Regardless of what the Ravens do from a roster perspective, they'll have to fill numerous roles that Humphrey occupied," Zrebiec wrote. "He plays outside, but also was used inside on certain matchups. He was one of the Ravens' best tacklers and one of their emotional leaders."

Humphrey's injury is the latest blow to a secondary that already had lost All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters and safety DeShon Elliott for the season.

"With matchups against the Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams still on their schedule, the last thing the Ravens needed was to be without their best cornerback," Zrebiec wrote.

Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer wrote: "Cornerback Marlon Humphrey, now officially out for the year with a torn pec, is a tough one. The two-time Pro Bowler is elite, maybe the best in the league inside, with the flexibility to move outside (which he has plenty this year). His absence will only compound the summer loss of Marcus Peters — any team playing without its two best corners will be, at least to some degree, swimming upstream — and the more recent loss of safety DeShon Elliott."

Despite all the injuries the Ravens have suffered, they're 8-4 and in first place in the AFC North. But one AFC team scout told NFL.com's Jeffri Chadiha that it's fair to question whether Baltimore should be considered a serious postseason threat at this point.

"You also can't underestimate what losing a safety like DeShon Elliott does to your secondary," the scout said. "When you run some of the stuff they do, you expect a certain number of busted coverages to happen. But they've probably had more communication issues with Elliott out. They still have (quarterback) Lamar Jackson and a great coach (John Harbaugh), but their offense is struggling more lately. I don't know how they sustain their success without the kind of defense they're used to playing."

The Spun's Tzvi Machlin wrote: "Sooner or later, the injuries are going to come back and bite the Ravens in a way they can't overcome. It's going to take a lot of creativity from Harbaugh and his staff to win the division, let alone a Super Bowl."

Ravens Ranked Least-Healthiest Team in the NFL

ESPN ranked all 32 teams' health on a scale from 1-10 (with 10 being the healthiest).

Not surprisingly, the Ravens received a "1." The only other team to get a grade that low was the Green Bay Packers.

The Ravens have had 22 players on injured reserve (second only to the New York Giants' 23) and a league-high 81 starts missed due to injury.

"Baltimore isn't as explosive on offense without its top two running backs (J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards). The Ravens aren't protecting Lamar Jackson as effectively without Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley. And the defense isn't producing many turnovers without All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters. But the team has been able to survive by winning some close games," Hensley wrote.

Five Available Cornerbacks the Ravens Could Target

When addressing the loss of Humphrey yesterday, Harbaugh said "we have really good players who can step in and play."

Harbaugh expressed confidence that Chris Westry, who has missed the past two games with a thigh injury, will return for this Sunday's game at Cleveland. If healthy, Westry figures to start in place of Humphrey.

"The most likely scenario is the Ravens starting Westry, assuming he's healthy, opposite [Anthony] Averett and then keeping [Tavon] Young in the slot," Zrebiec wrote. "[Jimmy] Smith, who has dealt with injuries all year and wasn't moving particularly well Sunday, could rotate in on the outside and [Kevon] Seymour could also get an opportunity to play a handful of snaps."

Zrebiec noted that General Manager Eric DeCosta will likely look at players on other team's practice squads and street free agents for depth, but "the reality is that pretty much every team is looking for quality cornerback depth at this stage of the season and it's not something that's just readily available."

Ebony Bird's Justin Fried identified five free players the Ravens could target. In doing so, Fried acknowledged that the team is tight against the salary cap, due in large part to the significant amount of money that's going to players on injured reserve.

Here are some excerpts from Fried's list:

Dre Kirkpatrick

"He most recently played with the 49ers, appearing in six games and making one start this season before being released last month. At 32-years-old, he's little more than depth at this point. But that isn't to say that he can't still be a valuable addition. With 79 career starts under his belt, Kirkpatrick could help provide experience to a suddenly inexperienced cornerback room with Anthony Averett and Chris Westry penciled in as starters."

(The other) Lamar Jackson

"Jackson was signed by the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent last season and he went on to start six of 13 games as a rookie. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Jackson is a physically imposing cornerback cut from the same cloth as someone like Jimmy Smith. … Jackson is sitting on the Jets' practice squad at the moment and could offer a young, cheap option for the Ravens. Of course, he'd be little more than a flier at this stage."

Brian Poole

"It's pretty surprising that veteran Brian Poole isn't on an NFL roster at this moment. A former Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets cornerback, Poole was one of the better slot cornerbacks in the NFL over the last few seasons. … Now, it should be noted that Poole is exclusively a nickel cornerback. He wouldn't be brought in to serve as a direct replacement for Marlon Humphrey. Instead, he would provide further depth behind Tavon Young. … [He's] currently on the Indianapolis Colts practice squad."

Quinton Dunbar

"While he hasn't appeared in a game this season, Dunbar has had stints with the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, and Green Bay Packers. He's clearly in football shape. And at 29-years-old, it's fair to wonder if the former Washington standout still has something left in the tank. If the Ravens are shooting for upside, they could do a lot worse than Dunbar."

Darqueze Dennard

"Dennard is teammates with Brian Poole on the Colts practice squad ... and much like Poole, it's hard to believe that Dennard isn't on an active roster. … Since 2017, Dennard has never received a PFF grade below 66.0 in a season. … Dennard has primarily been a slot cornerback in his career. But he proved last year that he can thrive both outside and inside."

Lamar Jackson One of Most Intriguing Quarterbacks to Watch Down the Stretch

With Jackson mired in the roughest stretch of his career, he was named one of the most intriguing quarterbacks to watch the rest of the season by the "Good Morning Football" crew.

Jackson carried the injury-ravaged Ravens earlier this season, but he's lost three of his past five games and has thrown eight interceptions (to six touchdown passes) in his past four games.

"I wonder if it's finally like, 'I'm not that powerful. I can't just beat everybody.' He's in a really bad stretch, throwing a lot of picks," said Kyle Brandt, who noted that Jackson's over-reliance on throwing jump balls to tight end Mark Andrews is the main cause of the interceptions.

Kurt Warner said that even though Jackson is struggling, he shouldn't stop being aggressive.

"Lamar has been special for so long. Right now, he's not special. [Do you ask him to] stop being special? 'Stop trying to do the things that you've done for two years that's made you the MVP, that made [the Ravens] this team?'" Warner said. "That's the tough dilemma. Do you just say, 'We're going to keep swinging, and if it doesn't work this year, it'll work next year because you're that good?' Or do you say, 'We've got to pull back. We got to play a different way?'"

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