Marlon Humphrey came into his rookie season trying to change a narrative that Alabama defensive backs don't make good pros (despite plenty of evidence to the contrary).
The first-round cornerback proved that and more in his first season, giving the Ravens hope that they've landed a star player for years to come.
"I felt like I had a pretty decent year," Humphrey said last week.
Humphrey was the second cornerback drafted in a talented class that lived up to the hype. The Saints' Marshon Lattimore (pick No. 11) may be the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and the Bills' Tre'Davious White (No. 27) was Pro Football Focus' (PFF) second-highest graded cornerback.
Humphrey was graded as the league's fifth-best cover corner. Opposing quarterbacks had just a 53.5 rating when throwing his direction. That's just one spot behind teammate Jimmy Smith and two spots below Lattimore.
"I felt like all the rookie cornerbacks balled pretty good this year, so that is definitely a big thing for me to be in that top 5," Humphrey said.
Humphrey came into the year backing up Smith and Brandon Carr, but gradually earned more reps on the outside. He played in all 16 games and made five starts, taking over for Smith after he tore his Achilles on Dec. 3.
After Humphrey became a full-time starter, he gave up 12 catches for 129 yards in four games, per Pro Football Focus. He didn't give up a single touchdown pass all year, made 34 tackles, broke up 11 passes and made two interceptions.
Humphrey said he enjoyed coming into the season without having to be an immediate starter, but also valued the reps he got to get his feet wet. He said he loved playing special teams for the first time in his football career.
"I was definitely blessed to receive some reps not being the No. 1 or No. 2 corner," Humphrey said. "They definitely used me in a pretty good way, and I felt like when I had to go in and start, I was ready to go."
Humphrey said his defensive backs coaches told him to continue working on his ball skills this offseason, as well as his off-coverage skills. Humphrey will mostly be a press cornerback, but wants to be versatile. Other than that, the goal is* *continuing to get stronger and faster, he said.
The Ravens got mixed results from the rest of their rookie class in Year 1.
Second-round outside linebacker Tyus Bowser played in all 16 games, mostly on special teams. He made 11 tackles, three sacks and one interception. Bowser was the NFL's Rookie of the Week in Week 2 after notching a sack and interception against the Cleveland Browns.
Bowser said he felt like he hit the "rookie wall" down the stretch, and felt his first season was a mental grind trying to learn the defense and special teams.
"I learned that it's a long season and you're only a rookie once," Bowser said. "You're going to go through it all, you're going to have hard times and tough times, not know what to do and get fired up by the coaches. But that's just part of the process of being a rookie."
Bowser said the most important part of his first offseason will be continuing to stay in the playbook. It should help that his position coach, Don "Wink" Martindale, is the team's new defensive coordinator.
"I have to continue working on my pass rush," Bowser said. "That's what they drafted me for. I have to become the player I'm meant to be."
Third-round defensive end Chris Wormley played in seven games and made five tackles. He got two starts as the Ravens tried to figure out who would replace Brent Urban, but Baltimore ultimately opted to go with Willie Henry instead.
Rookie third-round outside linebacker Tim Williams played in eight games and made six tackles. He didn't notch a sack. Williams said he needs to work on getting faster and stronger this offseason after his body fluctuated wildly early on this season.
"I'm only a rookie; I'm learning," Williams said. "As a rookie, you have to sit back and listen. I'm confident I can come back and have a successful season in my second year."
Fourth-round guard Nico Siragusa tore his ACL and PCL in training camp and missed the entire year. He's been rehabbing throughout the season and getting encouragement from teammates, including fellow guard Marshal Yanda, who had the same injury during his second NFL season (2008).
Fifth-round guard Jermaine Eluemunor suited up for eight games and started two, but was replaced by Matt Skura when healthy. The London-born product is still a developmental prospect who has shown promise but has work to do.
Sixth-round safety Chuck Clark was a key special teams player who saw his role increase as the season went on. He played in 15 games and made 13 tackles and broke up two passes. He played a season-high 26 defensive snaps in the season finale against the Cincinnati Bengals after fellow defensive back Anthony Levine was forced to leave due to injury.
Besides Humphrey, one of the biggest rookie contributions came from undrafted defensive lineman Patrick Ricard, who did very well stepping in as the team's lone fullback.
Ricard ended the year as PFF's highest-graded fullback by a wide margin, even ahead of the man he replaced in high-priced free agent Kyle Juszczyk (San Francisco). Ricard helped pave the way for a much-improved running game and caught two touchdown passes.