Maurice Canady was one of several Ravens teammates who welcomed back Tavon Young with open arms in the offseason. For Canady, the enthusiasm was partially rooted in the return of someone he called “one of my best friends.”
The other reason? Young’s presence also meant that Canady would be able to move from the slot cornerback role he filled as Young’s replacement last season and line up as an outside cornerback. Canady is embracing the change in position.
“I would definitely say that is my natural fit,” the 6-foot-1, 193-pound Canady said after Tuesday’s practice. “Obviously, it fits my structure as well. … So I’m excited.”
When Young tore the ACL in his left knee June 1, 2017, the defense used a rotation of Canady, Lardarius Webb and Anthony Levine Sr. at slot cornerback. Canady, a sixth-round draft pick in 2016, finished with a career-high 27 tackles (22 solo) and one pass breakup, but said returning to the outside means he gets to return to a familiar approach and strategy.
“You’ve got to use different techniques,” he said. “You’ve got to know a lot more in the slot. You’re basically synchronized with the whole defense when you’re in the slot. When you’re a corner, you’re pretty much on an island and it’s your best against the other man’s best. So it’s definitely different.”
Asked if moving to outside cornerback brings added pressure, Canady replied: “I wouldn’t say it’s pressure. It’s you against yourself. If you do your technique well, you will have a great day.”
Canady’s versatility is valued by the team. A few weeks ago, secondary coach Chris Hewitt called Canady “a third starter,” and coach John Harbaugh echoed that sentiment.
“He does a really good job in the slot, too. But with Tavon in there, we can push Maurice outside,” Harbaugh said. “That gives us the flexibility to move him out there and play him out there. That’s why he’s playing out there. But he can also play safety, so he’s a very versatile player. But we need the help outside. He gives us depth out there. I think he’s a starter. So he’s doing a good job.”
Canady made perhaps his best play of training camp during Tuesday’s session. He shadowed wide receiver DeVier Posey and broke up a pass thrown by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson, tipped the ball again and came down with the interception.
Canady, who sat out of organized team activities in May after undergoing surgery on his knee, said he feels more comfortable in his third year as a pro.
“Things have definitely slowed down for me,” he said. “I’m not so itchy to make a play. I’m just letting the plays come to me, and I’m doing my assignments. So I’m excited about this upcoming year.”
Planning to attend: After Thursday night’s game against the Chicago Bears at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, the team will enjoy Friday off before returning to practice Saturday at 8:45 a.m. The early time should help a group of Ravens coaches and players who intend to return to Canton to attend the Hall of Fame induction ceremony for former middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
Harbaugh said team owner Steve Bisciotti has arranged for Harbaugh, defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale and several players who played with Lewis to travel to Canton in time for his speech Saturday night.
“That’ll be fun,” Harbaugh said. “It’ll be amazing. I can’t wait, I can’t wait. I’ve never been to one. I’ve never been to one of those inductions. So I can’t wait to see it in real life.”
Dealing out hits: Rookie Mark Thompson’s size has drawn lots of attention. At 6-1, he matches fellow rookie Gus Edwards as the tallest running backs on the roster. And at 232 pounds, he is only eight pounds lighter than Edwards.
As running back Kenneth Dixon has been sidelined for the past five practices because of a hamstring injury, Thompson, Edwards and rookie De’Lance Turner have earned more repetitions behind Alex Collins and Buck Allen. Thompson’s bulk would seem to make him a bigger target for defenders, but he said he can dish out hits as well as he can absorb them.
“You could say or think that way, but being bigger, I just have to hit before I get hit,” he said. “A lot of big backs like [the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 6-0, 228-pound back] Leonard Fournette and [the Pittsburgh Steeers’ 6-1, 225-pound] Le’Veon Bell, they don’t get blown up too often, and that’s because they’re delivering the punch. Just because I’m a running back doesn’t mean that I’m the one that has to get hit.”