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The Competition 2018: Cornerback

Returning Players

Brandon Carr (11th season)
Jimmy Smith (eighth season)
Stanley Jean-Baptiste (fourth season)
Tavon Young (third season)
Maurice Canady (third season)
Marlon Humphrey (second season)
Jaylen Hill (second season)

Free-Agent Signings

Bennett Jackson (second season)

Rookies

Anthony Averett (fourth round)
Jackson Porter (undrafted)
Darious Williams (undrafted)

Projected Starters

If Jimmy Smith is healthy enough to play Week 1, he’ll be the Ravens’ top cornerback once again. All indications are that he should be back given that he suited up for practice (albeit with limited participation) during minicamp. Smith was having a Pro Bowl season before he tore his Achilles on Dec. 3.

If Smith is on the field, the other starting spot will be open for competition. First-round pick Marlon Humphrey showed he was ready for the job when stepping in last year, but the Ravens also retained veteran Brandon Carr, who hasn’t missed a single start in his 10-year career and had a strong 2017 campaign. Baltimore found ways to use both Carr and Humphrey while Smith was still healthy, but the Ravens likely want to give the talented Humphrey a larger role.

Key Role Players

Tavon Young’s season-ending knee injury had a ripple effect on the Ravens defense last year, forcing Baltimore to turn to a handful of different players (Lardarius Webb, Maurice Canady, Jaylen Hill) at nickel. Considering how often offenses employ three wide receivers, the nickel/slot cornerback spot is basically a starter. Thus, Young’s return this season is huge for the defense as a whole. He shined as a rookie, even while playing outside, but his best position is inside.

Though Canady’s season ended with a tough play on fourth-and-12 against the Cincinnati Bengals, he’s overall played well when called upon. Hill excelled last offseason to make the team as an undrafted rookie, but is now coming off a torn ACL and has yet to practice this summer. Anthony Averett, who played opposite Humphrey in college at Alabama, has all the tools to excel but will likely make his biggest impact on special teams this year while he learns the ropes at cornerback.

Most Anticipated Battle

The competition for the starting spot opposite Smith (if he’s back) should be the best. The younger Humphrey may have the inside track, as the team believes he could be a Pro Bowler in the making, but Carr is a competitive veteran who has only known starting, so he won’t give up his spot easily.

In terms of the 53-man roster, six spots seem all but locked up with Smith, Humphrey, Carr, Young, Canady and Averett. Smith’s injury status will affect how many cornerbacks the team keeps, but there’s not much more room regardless. The other contending cornerbacks will have to prove that they can also make a difference on special teams. Hill has to show that he can bounce back after his knee injury. Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Bennett Jackson need to show that experience counts and Darious Williams will need to continue to flash as he did during organized team activities.

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