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    Baltimore Ravens cornerbacks can shut down the AFC North

    The Baltimore Ravens have tons of depth at cornerback. The question, though, is how will the depth chart shake out for the final 53-man roster?

    The Baltimore Ravens have some positions of depth heading into the 2019 season, including the edge rushers. Looking elsewhere, one can see that Baltimore has a great group of cornerbacks too. Despite injuries hurting that position in the past, Baltimore learned that taking chances on younger cornerbacks every year is important. This embodies the “next man up” philosophy and signals that their depth will be a key component of competing for the AFC North title.

    The position could be even better this season as the secondary is loaded with such young talent that could take a leap forward. More interestingly, however, is that the CBs are a layered group with many talents and a few unanswered questions.

    The Ravens brought back a few of their own for 2019 season, including key starters like veteran Brandon Carr and Tavon Young.

    Brandon Carr has been up and down for the Ravens, in terms of play. However, in terms of availability, he has never missed a game and is a true ironman that can help lead the locker room. While he may not be the best in coverage for Baltimore, Carr is a playmaker and has 6 total interceptions and 23 pass deflections in two years as a Raven and led the team in picks last year. Such play earned him another year with the Charm City, as the Ravens picked up the option on his contract. He should be in the mix as a versatile starter, whether it’s on the boundary or in the slot occasionally.

    The Ravens agreed to a contract extension with Tavon Young, a primary slot cornerback, and getting a contract done early was a smart move considering his potential. Young did have a season-ending injury in 2017, but has bounced back and is now a key piece for the Ravens secondary. When the former 4th round pick from Temple has played for Baltimore, he has not always started but is still a great role player and slot cornerback. He has three interceptions and 13 pass deflections in 31 games, with 17 starts. As a defensive back that competes in the slot but maintains the trademark Ravens physicality, Young is worth the contract given.

    Can Marlon Humphrey reach his potential as the Ravens top corner?

    The former first-round pick from Alabama was a surprise pick at the time. But the results have shown out as Marlon Humphrey has been a revelation so far, stepping up big time the last two years, especially when Jimmy Smith was unavailable. Now he is arguably the top corner for the Ravens with big expectations on his shoulders for this season.

    Humphrey, in two years, has four interceptions and 18 pass deflections as part of a rotation with Carr and Smith after he came back from suspension last year. Humphrey impressed many as he covered the best receivers of the opposing teams, showing why he was worth a first-round pick. His physical play and coverage ability, along with speed to recover at his size, are traits that a potential top corner have and he could get up there sooner rather than later.

    What role will veteran Jimmy Smith play this upcoming season?

    Even though Jimmy Smith is a great veteran starter and has been solid against the NFL’s top receivers, he has dealt with suspensions the last two years and injuries that have plagued him. He has not played a full season since 2015 and has only started all sixteen games in 2013 and 2015, so durability has always been a concern. On the field, however, the former first-round pick from Colorado has as a career total of 13 interceptions and 64 pass deflections. His play doesn’t always tally on the stat sheet either, as his lockdown ability can keep receivers out of the play entirely.

    Smith does bring coverage skills that not many corners on the roster do. He’s a strong outside corner that plays both sides of the field. As a true man-to-man player with good size, he’s valuable in such a passing league. Perhaps Smith can be rotated around, like what they did last year with Carr and Humphrey on the outside.

    Will Anthony Averett or Maurice Canady be more than just depth options?

    Anthony Averett is another former fourth-round pick that the Ravens got last year out of Alabama. Averett can move into the slot as a back up to Tavon Young, or contribute on dime packages. At least for now, he is a depth player as he only played eleven games without any starts thus far. His speed is appealing to handle certain matchups with faster-opposing receivers.

    Maurice Canady is a former sixth-round pick from Virginia. He has not been activated or healthy for most games during the last few years. He has only played in 19 games. With the amount of depth Baltimore now has at cornerback, Canady’s chance to play has been limited.

    2019 fourth round pick Iman Marshall adds depth to the cornerback group

    The Ravens follow their trend from the past in selecting a cornerback on day three: Southern California cornerback Iman Marshall. Marshall has the size and speed to play around the secondary. He has six total interceptions and 36 pass deflections for USC. Since he was drafted last month, he’ll stick around.

    Who will make the final cut in a very talent-heavy position group?

    Usually, NFL teams keep five to six cornerbacks on their 53-man roster but that can change with injuries. As of right now, Humphrey, Carr, Young, and Marshall should all make the roster. Carr, Humphrey, and Young return as starters and the Ravens drafted Marshall a few months ago in the 2019 NFL Draft.

    Where it gets interesting

    Questions remain with Jimmy Smith, Anthony Averett, and Maurice Canady. Jimmy Smith could be a cap casualty in 2019. It’s possible due to his contract, age, and the injuries and suspensions he has been through. Smith is great on the field but has not been durable or dependable in his career with Baltimore. Trading or cutting him could be a move we see before the 2019 NFL season starts. This will clear cap space, and give younger players a shot.

    The Ravens will most likely keep Averett, as he is a recent, 2018 draft pick. They should give him another year to see what he offers on the field. Maurice Canady has been on the team a few years but has battled injuries. Both players will need to step up to ensure they make it though. The NFL is often dubbed “Not For Long” by many because the competition is constant. The addition of Marshall and return of Smith could spell the end of Averett and Canady’s Raven tenures.

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