Marlon Humphrey believes in staying even keel. Never getting overconfident when he's locking down a great receiver. Never getting demoralized when he's beaten for a big play.
That mindset has helped Humphrey become an All-Pro – 'All-Pro Marlo' as many of his teammates call him. But with nine games left in the regular season and the Ravens at 6-2, Humphrey is looking for more consistency in his play starting Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins.
The performance of Baltimore's defense has sometimes mirrored Humphrey's personal performance. There have been highlights, like Week 6 against the Los Angeles Chargers, when the defense dominated during a 34-6 victory and Humphrey was a shadow that Chargers receiver Mike Williams (two catches, 27 yards) couldn't shake.
But there have also been lowlights, like Week 7 when Ja'Marr Chase of the Cincinnati Bengals exploded on the Ravens (eight catches, 201 yards), winning his matchup against Humphrey and forcing him to reflect on his play. On Sunday, Humphrey was in coverage on a 50-yard touchdown bomb to Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
The Ravens find themselves in unfamiliar territory, ranked 31st overall in pass defense, and they've given up too many big plays. Personally, Humphrey holds himself to a higher standard, one he is determined to show on a regular basis the rest of the way.
"It's been a different season," Humphrey said on "The Lounge" podcast. "Not only for the defense, but for myself. I feel like there's been a lot of plays I've given up this year that I really haven't in the past. I feel like my better ball will be in the second half. That's really what I'm hoping for without pressing it too hard."
Humphrey is passionate about his craft – an intense practice player, avid about film study and prideful about his conditioning. He's also a deep thinker, and says his family his helped him deal with the ups and downs of this season, especially after games when Humphrey didn't think he played his best. His father, Bobby Humphrey, had a legendary career as an Alabama running back and played five seasons in the NFL. His mother, Barbara, was a track star at Alabama-Birmingham, the school's record-holder in the 400 meters.
They understand what athletes go through when they succeed, or fail, on the big stage. They taught Humphrey to maintain his confidence and work ethic, even when things aren't going smoothly.
"It developed when I was at a younger age running track," Humphrey said. "When I was like 12, there was a kid I just couldn't beat. My mom, she'd be like, 'Just keep working hard and you'll eventually beat him.' At the end of the year when it came time for the championship season in track, I beat him."
The Ravens have dealt with serious injuries all season, and the secondary has not gone unscathed. Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Peters was lost for the year with a knee injury prior to Week 1, while starting safety DeShon Elliott's season ended Sunday (torn biceps/pectoral injury). Losing Elliott is another challenge for the secondary, but Humphrey said the team is ready to face it.
"I hate losing my guys, especially the guys that are really energy-setter guys, with DeShon and Marcus – really smart, aware guys," Humphrey said. "We won't get another DeShon Elliott, we won't get another Marcus Peters, but we've got some other guys that can fill in and step in. I'm just ready to rock with whoever we've got out there."
Humphrey's versatility as a corner who can play outside or inside with physicality, covering receivers with different strengths, is rare. He's the kind of corner who would excel in any system, playing in any era, and at 25 years old he still has the potential to take his game to a higher level.
Humphrey is convinced the Ravens haven't played their best defensively yet, and he knows he hasn't played his best, either. Yet, Baltimore is 6-2, and Humphrey has the most part important part of the season ahead to make a huge impact, and he's looking forward to bringing his A-game.
"I'm very confident," Humphrey said. "The reason why I would say I'm most confident is, aside from the offense, (where) I think we've played pretty well, defensively we don't really feel like we've played that well, yet, consistently. So, to have a winning record, atop of the AFC, and not playing your best ball defensively, there's a lot of room for growth, a lot of room for improvement, and that's kind of what we're looking forward to showing. [We're] trying to stack these wins and take it one play at a time – that's the biggest thing. The biggest thing is consistency, take it one play at a time and just continue to win."