The Ravens added some shiny new defensive pieces this offseason in the form off high draft picks and big contracts.
But the player who seemed to make more plays than anyone during the offseason practices was last year's sixth-round pick Maurice Canady. The Virginia product consistently found himself around the football to force turnovers or incompletions, and he's in good position to win the starting slot corner spot that opened when Tavon Young went down earlier this month with a torn ACL.
"We were really sad to lose Tavon, obviously, but Maurice has had a great camp," Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said. "The guy makes plays. That is the whole bottom line on defense."
A hamstring injury cut Canady's rookie campaign short after only four games, but he spent the next several months working behind the scenes. He was one of the team's most impressive players during the offseason conditioning program and that work carried onto the field during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and minicamp.
During one practice in OTAs, Canady caught everyone's attention by hauling in three interceptions. When the Ravens began minicamp last week, the 6-foot-1, 193-pound defender was splitting first-team reps at slot corner with veteran Lardarius Webb.
Canady's emergence gives the Ravens options in their secondary. Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr are slated to start at outside corner, with Canady, Webb and veteran addition Brandon Boykin competing for the starting nickel job. Canady can also play outside if needed.
As the plans stand right now, first-round pick Marlon Humphrey does not look to be in the mix for the starting slot cornerback spot. Humphrey, 6-0 and 197 pounds, exclusively played outside during his college career at Alabama, and that's where he worked during offseason practices.
"We really like him as an outside guy," Pees said. "I really, in some ways, especially as a rookie, would rather them set in at one position and learn that position instead of trying to move them all over the place and them get kind of about half the reps here and half the reps there. I want to see if a guy can be a starter for us or push to be a starter, so we are kind of sitting him in one spot."
That leaves the inside spot open for Canady if he continues to play the way he did during the offseason. He'll certainly get challenged by Webb and Boykin, who both have far more experience, but Canady showed over the last few months that he has the knack for playmaking the Ravens are seeking.
"You can measure a guy's vertical jump and their speed and all that kind of stuff – but really the bottom line is production," Pees said. "That guy has made a lot of production here in camp, so I am really excited to see him in the fall."