Bad news has hit the Baltimore Ravens’ camp, as slot cornerback Tavon Young will likely be out for the season due to a neck injury. The fourth-year cornerback played 602 snaps for a Ravens defense that had the sixth-best coverage grade (90.0) in the NFL last year. Young allowed only 346 receiving yards on 330 coverage snaps last season, good for just 1.05 yards allowed per coverage snap — the 15th-best mark among 50 qualifying players at the position.
As with any good defense, the slot cornerback plays an increasingly important role in today’s NFL, and the absence of Young will be a big blow to a Ravens defense that was named our top secondary entering the 2019 season.
One of Young’s likely replacements will be Cyrus Jones, who has totaled 164 regular-season snaps in his career and played only 17 snaps last season. The last year in which Jones had significant playing time was in 2016 with the New England Patriots, and he earned a coverage grade of 66.4 that year, ranking 47th among cornerbacks.
Another option for the Ravens is to use Brandon Carr in the slot. The 33-year-old Carr, who has 11 NFL seasons under his belt, is coming off the first season in which he had significant playing time in the slot, with 242 of his 931 defensive snaps taking place there in 2018. Carr had a forced-incompletion-rate of 16.0% in the slot last season (including playoffs), ranking ninth among 47 cornerbacks who saw at least 25 targets.
Whether the Ravens go with Jones or Carr as the primary slot corner, they should still be one of the league’s top defensive backfields in 2019. The addition of Earl Thomas and the presence of Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey should help a lot with that. Baltimore now has two more preseason games to figure out who will replace Young’s 1,400-plus snaps over his last two healthy seasons with the Ravens.
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