Rookie Marlon Humphrey’s moxie impressed Ravens coach John Harbaugh

Only five games into his rookie season, Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey demonstrated that he will not back down from a challenge — or an individual.

Playing for usual starter Jimmy Smith, who was slowed by a balky Achilles tendon, Humphrey, the 16th overall pick in April’s NFL draft, frequently matched up with Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree in a 30-17 win Sunday.

Although Crabtree led Oakland in receptions (six) and receiving yards (82) and touchdown catches (one against Brandon Carr), the 21-year-old Humphrey battled Crabtree, 30, for every yard and even engaged in some verbal sparring with the nine-year veteran. Ravens coach John Harbaugh was delighted with Humphrey’s spirit.

“He didn’t back down, did he?” Harbaugh said. “Crabtree’s pretty special. We’ve had some experience with him in Baltimore, haven’t we? He’s a great one. And Marlon didn’t back down. Marlon’s confident. They got him on like three stop nines, or hitches if you want to call them that, versus press. Marlon played them a certain way. That was really the plan. But hindsight being 20/20, I think we might have played those with a little different technique than we did and helped Marlon out a little bit. It was a great learning experience.”

Although Humphrey is still learning the nuances of the cornerback position at the pro level, Harbaugh said there is no drop-off at the spot even if Smith goes down for a period of time.

“We just have guys who can play,” he said. “We’re good with the guys that we got. We want Jimmy out there. He’s a top-notch corner. I think he’s one of the best corners in football. I’m a big Jimmy Smith fan. I think Jimmy Smith will prove in the next couple of years to be maybe the best. I think he has a chance to do that. I feel that strongly about Jimmy. But to have other guys who can play, Brandon Carr and Marlon Humphrey played well. [Slot cornerback Lardarius] Webb’s playing well. We’ve got some other young guys that are working their way in there and are getting healthy. I’m pretty excited that we have some depth in the secondary.”

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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