No (Geno) Stone left unturned philosophy has paid off for the Ravens
The Baltimore Ravens have long been known for having a physically-imposing defense. They have a strong history of developing their own players through the draft and a track record better than most in undrafted free agency. Most would classify the Ravens’ defense as consistently top-of-the-line.
When the Ravens’ pick came in the 2022 NFL Draft, the team got their guy, a first-round pick who they felt was a top-five player in Notre Dame’s chess piece Kyle Hamilton. With experience at safety, linebacker, cornerback, and more, Hamilton came to Baltimore with high expectations.
In a safety room that included defensive signal-caller Chuck Clark and free-agent signing Marcus Williams, it was understood that Hamilton would be a rotational piece and may not receive as much playing time as a fellow first-round pick, center Tyler Linderbaum.
But, in Week 5 this all changed.
Free safety Marcus Williams went down in the first series and managed to play through pain and discomfort before being removed from the game. He had dislocated his wrist. Not a season-ending injury, but one that led to him being placed on the injured reserve for the foreseeable future.
With that, Hamilton would be the obvious choice to start, but the Ravens have a dearth of depth, and this was seen in their response. In addition to Clark and Hamilton, the Ravens have a former third-round pick, hybrid cornerback/safety Brandon Stephens, on the roster.
They also brought up a former undrafted rookie free-agent signing from last season, Ar’Darius Washington. A major theme between these players is that they have incredible positional flexibility which is key to the Ravens’ disguise defense.
Ravens safety Geno Stone is stepping up in Marcus Williams’ absence
But neither of them started the game. Instead, that player was Geno Stone. In 2020, the Ravens selected Stone with the 219th pick in the seventh round. His career got off to a rocky start, however.
After starting his career with the Ravens, he was cut and swiftly signed to the practice squad, before being signed by the Houston Texans to their 53-man roster. After spending some time in Houston, the Ravens eventually re-signed Stone the following offseason.
Stone worked his way into the rotation and quickly impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. Upon being added back to the 53-man roster, Stone worked his way into the rotation.
By the end of the season, he had started a game and was playing a key role in the defense. In 2021, Stone totaled 21 tackles and even recorded an interception in Week 17.
To start the 2022 season, Stone was effectively a special teams player. Playing sparingly on defense, Stone consistently played quality special teams and earned his way into the lineup. With Williams injured, it opened the door for Stone to receive a role on defense again.
In Week 5 he played 56% of the Ravens’ defensive snaps. The following week, he played 75%. Stepping into a larger role and a Week 6 start, Stone did not lose his roots. He still played a high quality and quantity of special teams snaps.
On top of that, Stone made six tackles and was a steady force on the back end of the secondary. Stone was so steady that he was hard to take off the field, even with a first-round pick on the doorstep. Hamilton and Stone shared the field with effectiveness.
The youth movement was clear.
For a late-round pick, Stone displayed consistency and heart and was a steadying force. Stone was and will be a high-impact part of the defense moving forward — and that is a good thing.
Players like Stone are hard to find, but the Ravens are notorious for finding those exact kinds of players. In his second stint with the team, Stone has shared success and will be pivotal moving forward.
The fact that he is starting proves that the Ravens truly leave no Stone unturned.