Ravens Cornerbacks Embark on Life Without Marlon Humphrey

Left: CB Anthony Averett (Baltimore Ravens Photo/Shawn Hubbard); Right: CB Chris Westry (AP Photos/Jeffrey Phelps)

Injuries have dealt the Ravens a difficult hand at cornerback, but there are no plans to fold.

"Time's too short to have an emotional hangover," Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said. "Everybody's got problems in this league."

Losing Marlon Humphrey for the season in Pittsburgh was the latest blow to a cornerback group that is under the microscope heading into Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns.

The secondary has battled all season without talented cornerback Marcus Peters. But to lose another multitalented corner in Humphrey, who can defend at a high level against outside receivers and in the slot, presents an enormous challenge for team vying to make the playoffs. Baltimore faces three of the NFL's top-10 passing offense in its last five games – the Rams (No.3), Packers (No. 9) and Bengals (No. 10).

On Sunday, Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry will enter the game coming off a six-catch, 111-yard performance against Baltimore in Week 12, knowing that Humphrey won't be available to defend him.

How will the Ravens adjust? Anthony Averett is now the Baltimore's lead cornerback with Tavon Young, Chris Westry and Jimmy Smith all candidates to see a heavier workload, while Kevon Seymour is also available as a reserve. How Martindale will rotate coverages and divide snaps remains to be seen, but this is uncharted territory because Humphrey has only missed three games in five seasons.

Westry is the biggest wild-card in the group because he is both talented and inexperienced. Undrafted in 2019, Westry made the 53-man roster against the odds during training camp, and the coaches were intrigued by his 6-foot-4 size, wing span and agility. However, Westry has missed nine games due to knee and thigh injuries and suited up for three.

This is an opportunity for Westry to seize the moment, but he knows opposing quarterbacks won't hesitate to test him, or any of the Ravens' remaining corners. Though he was beaten for a touchdown by Marquise Goodwin on a double-move in Chicago, Westry also had two pass breakups and made three tackles playing 56 snaps. He showed plenty of moxie making the 53-man roster in training camp and is confident that a strong week of practice will prepare him for any role he is asked to play Sunday.

"Whatever I can do to help us get in the win column, I'm all for it," Westry said. "Practice this week is definitely going to be important, but this is the Raven way. We've faced difficult situations from the beginning of camp. Regardless of who's out there, it's our job to compete.

"In training camp, I was betting on myself, knowing what I'm capable of doing. It wasn't a matter of who was already here on the roster. I just came in, I was myself, I left it in God's hands and it worked out. I don't take any opportunity for granted. They're been a lot of circumstances for us to deal with this year, but we're still battling."

Tavon Young, one of the NFL's best nickel corners, practiced for the second straight day after being sick against the Steelers and playing just eight snaps. It appears Young is feeling better, and veteran Jimmy Smith played a season-high 42 snaps against the Steelers, putting him in position to play meaningful snaps at corner or safety down the stretch.

The Ravens are known for being a team that blitzes aggressively and plays a complex defensive scheme. Martindale said that without Humphrey, the coaches and players would make whatever adjustments they believed would give them the best chance to win.

"We're going to be who we are," Martindale said. "Will we do things different? I think we do things different all the time. Are we going to play a different game plan than what we played against Cleveland the first time? There's always punches and counterpunches in a game. That's what you'll see Sunday."

What the Ravens don't want to see is communication breakdowns in the secondary that lead to big plays. That has plagued them this season, and they had another blown coverage Sunday that left Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson wide open for a 28-yard touchdown.

"Pretty much everybody was playing one thing except me," Averett said. "I was the far corner, I didn't get the communication. That was all me on that. The communication, everything, has just got to improve. It's got to improve even more now. We've got new faces out there."

However, the Ravens still lead the AFC North and have accepted the challenge of adjusting to life without Humphrey. They would love to have their talented cornerback for the stretch run. But the Ravens are also determined to show they can win without him.

"You know you definitely can't replace a guy like Marlon," Averett said. "A 'mojo' guy for sure. But we've just got to keep playing – Next-man-up mentality. Nobody cares, really. You've just got to keep going."

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