The Baltimore Ravens saw the return of nickel cornerback Tavon Young last week as the oft-injured defensive back returned to action for the first time since tearing his ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season.
Young has had a tumultuous NFL career filled with ups and plenty of downs. The Ravens hope that he could return to full health in 2021 and pick up where he left off back in 2018.
But history shows that relying on Young to stay healthy isn’t a wise bet.
While it would be a feel-good story to see Young, a player who has played just two games over the past two seasons, play a full season in 2021, there remains a chance that he doesn’t.
And if Young is once again bitten by the injury bug, what will the Ravens do at the nickel cornerback position? What’s the plan?
What do the Ravens do if Tavon Young gets injured again?
In the past, the Ravens have primarily resorted to sliding All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey inside to the slot. Humphrey is capable of playing both outside and in the slot, but he’s undoubtedly most valuable outside.
It would likely be better to keep him on the boundary, especially given the abundance of options the Ravens have at their disposal.
The likes of Anthony Averett and Jimmy Smith could both play in the slot if needed with Averett representing the more realistic option. The former Alabama star is buried on the depth chart but could see significant playing time in the slot if Young goes down.
Smith’s size means that he’s better-suited lining up on the outside or matching up with opposing tight ends.
The Ravens also selected Ohio State’s Shaun Wade in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Wade played his best collegiate ball in the slot and could be the team’s slot cornerback of the future.
However, none of these players were working with the first-team defense at nickel cornerback with Young absent for OTAs. Instead, that honor went to Khalil Dorsey.
An undrafted free agent following the 2020 NFL Draft, Dorsey played in six games his rookie season, recording just five defensive snaps, before landing on the injured reserve.
The Ravens coaching staff loves Dorsey and he should be considered an under-the-radar option to receive playing time in the nickel if Young is injured again.
Baltimore hopes that this won’t be an issue. Tavon Young has missed pretty much all of three of his five NFL seasons, but the Ravens are hoping that 2021 can break the trend.
If not, however, they do have other options.