Rookie cornerback Tavon Young skied over Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard and hauled in quarterback Eli Manning's pass last Sunday at MetLife Stadium. It was one of the most impressive interceptions in recent Ravens memory.
But while Young smiled and said he's watched the replay a couple times, he followed it with a dissatisfied shake of the head.
"I didn't score," he said. "I didn't score."
Young said that was the best pure catch he's had in his football career, but not the best pick overall because he had a 93-yard interception return for a touchdown in his junior year at Temple.
With the turnover-prone New York Jets up next, Young and the Ravens defensive backs are not only looking to continue making interceptions, but to take their playmaking to the next level.
The Ravens had the fewest interceptions in the NFL last season (six). They have eight so far this year through six games, the third-most in the league.
"We have to keep getting turnovers, but now we're trying to take it further," safety Lardarius Webb said. "We want to get seven points."
The Ravens haven't had an interception returned for a touchdown yet this season. Linebacker C.J. Mosley came close against the Washington Redskins in Week 5, but fumbled it out of the end zone. Young brought his pick back inside the Giants' 30-yard line, and the Ravens turned it into a 39-yard field goal.
So far, Young has made the most plays of anyone in the secondary. He may not be the best cover cornerback on the team (that honor would go to Jimmy Smith), but the fourth-round rookie is often around the ball.
His first career interception came in a comeback win over Cleveland in Week 2. Young jumped on a fumble the following week in Jacksonville. In college, Young notched seven interceptions, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two touchdowns in 48 career games.
Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said some players just have a knack for getting turnovers. They have excellent hands, eyes* *and instincts. Pees cited former Ravens safety Ed Reed as the perfect example. So, does Pees see that knack in Young?
"Well I hope so," he said. "So far, he has done very well. But time will tell. He is a rookie, so we do not want to give him too much credit."
With a barrage of injuries at cornerback, Young has quickly moved up the depth chart.
He was originally slated as a backup nickel cornerback behind veteran Jerraud Powers, but Powers had health issues in training camp, the preseason and the first three weeks of the season, so Young leapt him. Now, with Shareece Wright (back/thigh) injured and Sheldon Price (thigh) on injured reserve, the 5-foot-9, 177-pound Young has moved outside as the starter the past two weeks. And it might continue.
For the most part, he's held up well. Over the first four games, he gave up four catches for 29 yards, per Pro Football Focus. In his first start in Week 5 versus Washington, he gave up five catches on seven targets for just 31 yards.
Last week showed the growing pains of a rookie, however. Young surrendered seven grabs on 11 targets for 123 yards and two touchdowns in New York. He was on Odell Beckham Jr. on the game-winning 66-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1.
Tight in press coverage, Young ran into safety Eric Weddle as Beckham made the catch, taking him out of the play and allowing Beckham to sprint in for the score. Had he not run into Weddle, Pees and Young both think he would have made the tackle.
Just being matched up one-on-one against Beckham in such a critical play in the game is quite an assignment for the rookie, who just shrugged his shoulders.
"I don't back down from anybody," Young said. "I shook it right off after the game. As a cornerback, you have to have a short memory."
Young and the rest of the Ravens defense will have a chance to make more plays, and perhaps interceptions, this Sunday.
The Jets lead the league in interceptions thrown (12), although all but one were thrown by now-benched quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The man who has replaced him, Geno Smith, had an interception and fumble in nine snaps when relieving Fitzpatrick Monday against the Arizona Cardinals. Smith has thrown 36 interceptions in 32 career games played.
"It's something we stress every day: turnovers, turnovers, turnovers," Webb said. "And the way the front is playing, they're making quarterbacks throw the ball when they don't want to throw it."