Ravens coach compares CB Tavon Young’s return to having ‘another first round draft pick’
A lot has been made and gawked over when it comes to the new defensives pieces that the Baltimore Ravens have added this offseason most notably five-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell and first-round inside linebacker Patrick Queen and deservedly so. Both are slated to play major roles in the defense as starters in the front seven.
However, the return of star slot cornerback Tavon Young has the potential to have just as significant of either of those acquisitions if not more because of what he brings to the table from versatility and physicality standpoint, not to mention what his presence in the lineup on game days allows Defensive Coordinator Don ‘Wink’ Martindale to do schematically.
After establishing himself as arguably the best nickel corner in the league during his breakout campaign in 2018, earning a lucrative contract in the process, Young missed all of last season with a neck injury he sustained in last year’s training camp. His long-awaited return is equivalent to having another top draft pick added to the mix from a magnitude standpoint even though he’s a four-year veteran according to Pass Defense Coordinator Chris Hewitt.
“We’ve got Tavon back this year, which is a huge addition – that’s like having another first-round draft pick coming back inside of your room,” Hewitt said earlier this week.
Young has been looking like the same ultra-aggressive and physical self through training camp thus far, especially once the pads came on. If there is any residual rust from his injury and time off from competitive play and practice, he isn’t showing any signs of it.
He is looking like and practicing like his old preinjury self and has been extremely sticky in coverage and giving receivers that enter his domain in the slot fits in one-on-one, seven-on-seven, and full team 11-on-11 drills.
Young had his best day of camp to this point during Tuesday’s intense padded practice where he broke up multiple passes and made life hell for every receiver that he covered according to reports. Not even second-year speedy wideout Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown who has been one of the brightest stars in camp and has been leaving defensive backs in his dust could get the best of Young that day. In a jump ball situation between the two, Young climbed the ladder higher than Brown and just got enough of the ball to tip it away.
“He looks to me like he picked up right where he left off before,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said during his Tuesday presser. “He’s really trained hard, and you can see that. He’s moving great. He’s a very good football player, and he’s playing very well. So, I can’t wait to see him play this year. I’m excited for his season. He’s a special kind of guy.”
While young admitted that he was “a little bit” concerned about how his neck would hold up at the start of training camp, he’s been all about ball and playing free ever since he stepped back on the field for the first time.
“Once I stepped on the grass, it was like, it is what it is – let’s go, let’s do what we do,” Young said on Tuesday.
The last time he was on the field in 2018, the Ravens finished the season as the No.1 ranked total defense and he played a large part in that effort. He recorded 36 tackles, an interception and two fumble recoveries, which were both returned for touchdowns that year.
His ability to dominate in the slot allows the Martindale to keep his pair of First Team All-Pro cornerbacks, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, on the outside where they do their best work. Last season Humphrey spent a lot of time playing nickel because the Ravens didn’t have any other option that could perform those duties at a high level after Young went down.
As admirable of a job as Humphrey did as a substitute, his more natural position is on the outside where his skill set can be utilized the best. Young is also just the better man for the job quite frankly. He was more efficient on blitzes from the slot in 2018 than Humphrey was last year and his pair of sacks to his teammates zero are proof of it. While both players hang their hats on being as physical as they come, Young possesses more quick-twitch muscle fibers to get off the ball and bend around the edge to get home for sacks on quarterbacks and bring down or at least slow up ball carriers in run support.
Hewitt was spot on when he said that having Young back this year is like having another first-round pick because his ripple effect as the nickel cornerback on what Martindale will be able to scheme and dial-up could have a more profound impact on the entire defense than what Queen will bring to the just middle of it as the MIKE linebacker.