Few expected Tavon Young to lead the Ravens in sacks after Week 1.
Sunday's game provided yet another example of Young's versatility and value as a nickel cornerback, and why his return is huge for the Ravens defense.
Young has emerged as a key member of the Ravens' secondary who can cover slot receivers, wide receivers and tight ends – all while blitzing quarterbacks and making sure open-field tackles. Young missed the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL, but his performance Sunday during the Ravens' 47-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills removed any doubt about Young being 100 percent.
"Tavon is a huge asset to this defense," safety Tony Jefferson said after Sunday's game. "Obviously, that nickel spot guy needs to be able to do both – cover and blitz. 'Tay' is perfect for that job."
Young loved getting two sacks in one game – a rarity for a cornerback. He became the first Ravens defensive back in 22 years with two sacks in a game. Safety Benny Thompson had three one day in 1996.
"Coach Wink [Martindale] made the call, and I just played the call," Young said. "The D-line did what they had to do and freed it up for me, so I just came in and cleaned it up. That's what I did."
Young was helped on one sack by defensive tackle Chris Wormley, who flattened a Bills offensive lineman and was the first to get his hands on quarterback Nathan Peterman.
But Young is also being modest, according to inside linebacker C. J. Mosley. The first sack by Young was an instinctive play, Mosley said. Young read the play, anticipated what Peterman was trying to do, and reacted.
"We saw something on the field that we were able to take advantage of on Tavon's [Young] sacks," Mosley said. "One of those was actually a coverage sack, and he was supposed to be covering, but he got loose and made it happen. Sometimes you've got to make a play."
Young was asked the last time he had a sack before Sunday. He smiled.
"I'd have to go back to college, probably my freshman year," Young said. "That's crazy, isn't it? The last time I had a sack was in my freshman year. I felt like a D-lineman out there."
It will be interesting to see if Martindale continues to use Young in blitz packages against Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, but Young does not think he will challenge Terrell Suggs or other pass rushers to be the team's sack leader this season.
"No, no, I think those boys have it," Young said with a laugh. "We have a good D-line and pass rush here. I'm a defensive back. I just cover, but I'll do whatever they ask me to do."
Young also did well in coverage. Per Pro Football Focus, he was targeted twice, gave up one catch for 11 yards and broke up the other.
Young's return is one reason the Ravens believe they can cope with the absence of cornerback Jimmy Smith, who still has three games left in his suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy. Smith is missed, but the Ravens are obviously coping.
"That's a tough loss, but for us, it's all the same," Young said. "Our energy is always up, and we've got the leaders back there – Brandon [Carr], Eric [Weddle] – and we've got the young guys, too, ready to play."
Young looks very ready, too. The Ravens will face a tougher challenge Thursday dealing with Dalton, someone with far more experience than Peterman.
The heartbreaking loss to the Bengals that kept the Ravens from advancing to the playoffs last season is still fresh in their minds. The Ravens were already talking about the Bengals in the locker room following Sunday's win. The convincing win over Buffalo felt good, but the Ravens were not allowing themselves to get too high too soon.
"It feels great to come back and get a win in our first game, but we've got 15 more to go and a short week coming up," Young said. "Being back with my teammates in the locker room after a win, I really couldn't be happier right now."
Check out all the action from the Ravens' regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium.