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Ravens Confident in Their Cornerbacks, No Matter Who Lines Up

CB Brandon Stephens
CB Brandon Stephens

Until Marlon Humphrey returns from last month's foot surgery, his teammates in the cornerback room are determined to have his back.

Humphrey has not practiced since Aug. 15, and the Ravens have known for weeks that they could be without their Pro Bowl cornerback for Sunday's season opener against the Texans. The Ravens aren't saying who will start at corner, but Rock Ya-Sin, Brandon Stephens and Ronald Darby are candidates to play outside, with Arthur Maulet and Ar'Darius Washington in line to play nickel.

No matter how the rotation shakes out, Stephens said the cornerbacks are ready to step up.

"Whoever's out there, you've got to bring it," Stephens said. "Marlo's not out there, but I'm confident in the guys we have in the DB room, confident in myself that we can get the job done."

Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald said Thursday he was still weighing his options on which cornerbacks would see the most playing time.

"We'll see who's out there at certain times," Macdonald said. "I don't want to give that away quite yet, but whoever will be out there, we have a lot of confidence in them, and I think they're ready to go.

"We'll see who ends up in the snap counts. I probably couldn't tell you right now. I'm not keeping that from you. I just don't know that yet."

This has been a challenging summer for the cornerback room, with Ya-Sin and Maulet missing time, Pepe Williams (ankle) going on the injured list and Darby not joining the team until Aug. 17. However, Stephens has moved from safety to cornerback as he has done in the past, and he's always been confident in his versatility.

"I've been bouncing around really my whole career," Stephens said. "I'm doing what my team needs me to do, executing wherever I'm plugged in.

"The more reps you get, you learn. I'm not the same player I was when I first started playing corner. I've seen different looks, different matchups. I'm feeling good and I'm ready."

Macdonald praised Darby for how quickly he has picked up the defense, after spending the past two seasons with the Broncos. Darby has 89 games of NFL experience and looks fully recovered from the knee injury that ended his 2022 season after just five games.

"He's a quick study and is really quick-footed," Macdonald said. "He has a great feel of what we're trying to do. He's played a lot of good football and understands the game – route concepts and splits and distributions. He's just been a great guy to have around. It seemed like he picked it up seamlessly just from the first day he got here. So, we're excited to see what he can do."

Macdonald could opt to give versatile safety Kyle Hamilton some reps at slot corner on Sunday, something he did frequently last season. However, Hamilton has been impressed by how the cornerback rotation has played since Humphrey's injury.

"Guys have gotten hurt throughout this preseason and other guys have stepped in made a name for themselves," Hamilton said. "Ar'Darius might have had the best camp of anybody on the team. He's going to make a lot of plays for us. I'm really excited for him. Everybody in that room, even Darby who just got here."

Maulet was the Steelers' primary cornerback the past two seasons, playing 33 games for Pittsburgh before contract talks broke down and he was released. Maulet suffered a hamstring injury shortly after signing with Baltimore on July 26 and didn't play in the preseason. However, he's healthy now and ready to make plays, not excuses.

"I'm grinding to get back to where I need to be," Maulet said. "I want to prove to everybody that I'm worth what I'm asking for. These guys didn't see me having live bullets thrown at me in the preseason. I want to show guys I'm ready to help us win. I'm ready to strap up, see a different color, be physical, and play Raven football in front of that crazy crowd. It's going to be exciting."

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