Marlon Humphrey, Secondary Seek A Bounce Back Performance

CB Marlon Humphrey

Instead of dwelling on his last game, Marlon Humphrey is likely to be motivated by it.

The same is true for Baltimore's entire secondary. The Ravens enter Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings in an unusual position, ranked last in the NFL in pass defense surrendering 296.1 yards per game. Humphrey's last game is one he'd like to forget – beaten by Cincinnati Bengals star rookie receiver Ja'Marr Chase (eight catches, 201 yards) during a 41-17 defeat.

The Ravens have had a bye week to regroup and reflect, and Humphrey has vowed to play better.

Baltimore has a prideful defense, one that expects to play with far more consistency that it has shown during the first seven games. Starting safety DeShon Elliott has no doubt that Humphrey and the entire secondary are ready to respond.

"Marlon's my dude," Elliott said. "Marlo's always going to be All-Pro Marlo. It's not just Marlon. We've got to play better as a whole, together. When we do that we're going to be great. Everybody has a bad day. Make up for it by playing with each other as brothers. He's going to be alright. Marlon's the best corner in the NFL. He's going to continue to show y'all that."

Shutting down's Minnesota's receivers will be another difficult assignment, regardless of how Defenisve Coordinator Wink Martindale decides to deploy Humphrey, Anthony Averett and nickel corner Tavon Young.

Minnesota has two of the NFL's top receivers in Justin Jefferson (63 catches, 563 yards, three touchdowns) and Adam Thielen (43 catches, 471 yards, six touchdowns), both on pace for over 100 catches and 1,000 yards. They bring different skillsets to the table but both are dangerous targets, playing with a quarterback in Kirk Cousins who has confidence going against the Ravens.

Head Coach John Harbaugh has vivid memories of facing Cousins and they are not pleasant. The Vikings' veteran quarterback is 2-0 against the Ravens – both wins coming while Cousins was with Washington. Harbaugh views Cousins as a dangerous quarterback despite Minnesota's recent struggles on offense.

"He runs the offense so well, veteran quarterback," Harbaugh said. "We had a bad experience against him way back when he was playing for Washington. Very accurate passer, very on-time, on-rhythm, very defined offense, kind of the (Gary) Kubiak offense. (Offensive Coordinator) Klint's (Kubiak) running it now. They run it very well and he's perfect for it."

As a rookie in 2012, Cousins had a breakout game against the Ravens, coming off the bench to replace injured quarterback Robert Griffin III to lead Washington to a 31-28 overtime victory. It was an early indication that Cousins, drafted in the fifth round, would eventually develop into a starter.

But the Vikings (3-4) are also coming off a disappointing loss to the Dallas Cowboys in which Jefferson was shut down (two catches, 21 yards). It wasn't all his fault, as Cousins wasn't at his best either, badly off target on one throw to Jefferson that should have been a big play.

Baltimore's defense wants to play with far more consistency after the bye. They've had terrific defensive games against the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos, but they've given up more big plays than any team in the NFL, and poor tackling has been an issue all season.

It will be interesting to see how aggressively Cousins attacks Baltimore's secondary. He's taking criticism in Minnesota for being too conservative following the Vikings' 20-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football.

Cousins was Mr. Checkdown against the Cowboys. Fullback C.J. Ham caught more passes (three ) than Jefferson (two) against the Cowboys. According to Chad Graff of The Athletic, Cousin's passes traveled an average of just 4.5 yards past the line of scrimmage on Sunday. On eight straight third-down possessions, Cousins' passes failed to travel beyond the first down marker.

Cousins has only been sacked 10 times this season, but he'll get rid of the football quicker than many quarterbacks, sometimes before Jefferson and Thielen have a chance to uncover. If the Ravens do a solid job containing running back Dalvin Cook (444 yards, 4.45 yards per carry), it will put Minnesota in obvious passing situations that will make it easier for the Ravens' pass rush to get after Cousins.

The Vikings (3-4) haven't been as explosive as they were in 2020 when they ranked fourth in total offense, but they're still ranked No. 7, and Jefferson can turn any play into a big play, especially if the Ravens continue to have issues with tackling.

Elliott knows the Ravens are capable of playing better defensively, and they've returned from the bye determined to fix their issues.

"We've got to continue to work on our technique and execution," Elliott said. "That starts in practice. It's not always about X's and O's. It's about players and us doing our job. We're going to get it done. We've got to staple guys to the ground."

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