Ravens safety Eric Weddle got the interception, touchdown and Kobe Bryant-inspired celebration, but cornerback Maurice Canady was perhaps just as responsible for the Ravens’ final dagger in a 44-20 win over the Detroit Lions Sunday.
It was Canady who blitzed off the edge and crushed backup Lions quarterback Jake Rudock, who launched an ill-advised pass into the flats where Weddle easily picked it off.
“It was a great disguise by the whole defense,” Canady said. “I was able to cause a great play, which helped cement the game.”
Few people are talking or buzzing about Canady, but they should be.
Rookie first-round pick Marlon Humphrey will be the main man stepping in after Jimmy Smith’s season-ending Achilles injury, but Canady will also be a major part of the solution. He’s part of why the Ravens aren’t panicking over the loss of their top cornerback.
“He has played really well,” Harbaugh said. “I see him playing a lot in the upcoming games, and it will probably be inside and outside as we go by package and by need.”
Humphrey was the Ravens’ third cornerback behind Smith and Brandon Carr, but he still saw a lot of defensive snaps. Now Canady moves into that role, and has perhaps even more flexibility to play in the slot or outside.
In his fourth game this season, Canady played a season-high 57 percent of the snaps against the Lions. He made a season-high five tackles and knocked away one pass. Canady received the defense’s fourth-highest grade from Pro Football Focus, and has allowed six catches on nine targets for just 31 yards this season.
He’s been waiting a long time for this chance to show what he can do.
“It’s always the next man up,” Canady said. “I’ve been out for a year in total, almost two, so it’s hard, But it is the next man up in this game.”
A sixth-round pick out of Virginia last year, Canady stood out in offseason practices, but was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury after just four games.
This year, he looked like the Ravens’ top slot corner after Tavon Young suffered a season-ending knee injury, and was collecting interceptions in practice nearly every day, but went down with a knee injury at the start of training camp. This time, the Ravens put him on injured reserve with the intention of bringing him back, which they did in time for their Week 9 game in Tennessee.
“He is a guy that we’ve always really had a lot of hope for, because he came in and did really well,” Harbaugh said. “He’s been injured a little bit on and off. You see him out there healthy, playing fast. He plays with a high, high motor. He’s a very instinctive player.”
Canady will be joined by some other young defensive backs in helping the Ravens make up for Smith’s loss.
Undrafted rookie Jaylen Hill has been a healthy scratch in recent weeks, but could be active moving forward. Harbaugh said Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who is a big-bodied corner in Smith’s mold, will be brought up from the practice squad.
Baltimore also used sixth-round rookie safety Chuck Clark against the Lions. Clark saw 10 defensive snaps, his most extensive action yet, and lined up in multiple spots, including next to linebacker C.J. Mosley.
“Chuck played well,” Harbaugh said. “He flies around, he is a really smart player – a real physical player. He can run. Chuck is an up-and-comer, and he has been doing it on special teams all year, and he played well on defense. I could see his role expanding.”
In recent years, the Ravens’ success in the secondary has hinged too much on Smith’s availability. When he’s been injured, the unit has struggled. It was never more apparent than in last year’s Christmas loss in Pittsburgh, where Antonio Brown feasted on Shareece Wright.
Now, as the Ravens prepare to go back to Heinz Field, they feel more confident they can sustain the loss of Smith.
“Compared to previous years, certainly, we are much better able to handle the injury to Jimmy,” Harbaugh said. “We are much better able to handle that than we have been in the past.”