Marlon Humphrey has quietly been a shutdown cornerback for much of the season, hidden among a bunch of standouts on Baltimore’s top-ranked defense.
But you know what gets attention? Stats. Big plays. Big hits.
Humphrey put it all on display in Sunday’s 20-12 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who entered with the top-ranked passing offense in the NFL.
A massive hit in the first quarter set the tone for the day. Then Humphrey finished it with a sliding interception and fourth-and-4 pass breakup in the fourth quarter.
“Marlon Humphrey played at the level we expected him to play at, which is at the highest level,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
The Ravens’ top draft pick last year, Humphrey had a strong rookie season and is following it up with an even better sophomore campaign.
What’s particularly noteworthy is that he did it Sunday with a nagging groin injury. Humphrey has practiced just twice in the past two weeks.
Humphrey got started Sunday when he thumped Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones II in the flat for a 1-yard loss. It was a form tackle, head up with plenty of physicality.
“It definitely got the juices flowing for me,” Humphrey said. “I would always rather make a big hit like that just as much as getting an interception.”
The Bucs didn’t throw in Humphrey’s direction much for a while after that, but facing a 20-12 deficit early in the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston tried to hit star wide receiver Mike Evans on a deep pass down the right sideline.
Humphrey had his eyes in the backfield and slid underneath the throw to make his first interception of the season. A press corner like Humphrey doesn’t get a lot of interception opportunities – it’s just his third of his career – but he treasures them when they come.
“Definitely felt like a long time,” Humphrey said.
“I feel like the difference between a good corner and a great corner is making plays – interceptions, pick-sixes, things like that,” Humphrey said. “You played well, but you get an interception, you take good to great. I want to be a great one.”
The Bucs still had a chance to tie the game near the end of the fourth quarter, and faced a fourth-and-4 from Baltimore’s 33-yard line. Humphrey came flying over the top of wide receiver Chris Godwin to break up the pass.
The Ravens have had troubles getting off the field in such critical situations, including last week in Kansas City, but Humphrey now has two fourth-down breakups. He also essentially ended the Ravens’ win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 18.
After that play, safety Eric Weddle told reporters that Humphrey needed to be more consistent, week-in and week-out to be considered among the league’s elite. Now?
“He’s doing it, right!? He’s been outstanding,” Weddle said.
“I’ve been harping on him every day in meetings and little things that happen in practice. He’s an amazing guy to be around. He listens, he works extremely hard, he’s as talented as anyone out there. When he’s focused and locked in, not many guys can get by him. That’s what he’s shown over these last couple weeks – a guy we can count on to make big plays.”
So is Humphrey emerging as one of the top-flight corners in the league? Veteran corner Brandon Carr put a lot of thought into the question before answering.
“Last year, he was emerging. This year, he is that guy,” Carr said. “He’s had confidence. Now he’s putting it together as far as the mental part of the game, the classroom study. He has a lot of passion, a lot of fire right now. He’s a young guy with an active body, and he’s out there doing his thing.”
Safety Tony Jefferson agreed that it’s the work behind the scenes that’s taking Humphrey to the next level.
“I think it’s starting to click for him more in the film room more than anything,” Jefferson said. “Obviously, he has the intangibles to be a top-3, top-5 corner in this league.”
Humphrey came out of Alabama as one of the fastest and most physical cornerbacks in a star-studded draft class. Players such as the Saints’ Marshon Lattimore, Titans Adoree Jackson and Bills’ Tre’Davious White have overshadowed him at times.
But Humphrey knows what’s expected of him, and he’s working to get there.
“"When they drafted me here, I felt like they saw a guy that could maybe step up and be the next good corner here,” Humphrey said. “I feel like they were trying to have a guy that could be the ‘CB1’. So I think I’ve been showing some strides toward that. I still have work to do.”