When he made five starts a year ago in his rookie season for the Ravens, cornerback Marlon Humphrey was grateful for the opportunity to prove the organization had made the right decision investing its 2017 first-round draft pick in the former Alabama star.
Humphrey is still blessed for the chance to be one of the defense’s top players, but he is no longer the starry-eyed youngster mesmerized by the coveted label of starter, which he will assume in Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills at M&T Bank Stadium.
“It’s really kind of not much different,” Humphrey, 22, said Thursday. “I started a few games with Jimmy [Smith] out last year. So I just have to do my job and help the team with whatever it takes to win.”
Humphrey figures to start alongside Brandon Carr while Smith serves a four-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy and perhaps even after his return. In 16 games last season, Humphrey totaled 11 pass breakups (second most on the team), two interceptions and 34 tackles.
That potential excites defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale, who said, “I’m really excited to see what Marlon is going to do — not what he can do; what he’s going to do.”
Bills coach Sean McDermott said he does not see much of a drop-off in the Ravens secondary between Smith and Humphrey.
“Both Humphrey and Carr are very good players — as well as their nickel and the two safeties,” McDermott said. “It’s all driven by [strong safety Tony] Jefferson and [free safety Eric] Weddle in the back end there.”
Humphrey appreciated the vote of confidence from Martindale, but said he remains undeterred in his quest to make more game-changing plays for the defense.
“I think I can do a lot of good things,” he said. “I just have to show it on Sundays.”
The Ravens will open the regular season against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday with a largely healthy roster.
Only two players — cornerback Maurice Canady (thigh) and rookie inside linebacker Kenny Young (left knee contusion) — are listed as questionable, according to the team’s final injury report of the week. Canady was limited in practice for the third consecutive day, while Young participated fully for the second straight day.
Their availability could be critical. Young is competing with Patrick Onwuasor for the right to start at weak-side linebacker next to middle linebacker C.J. Mosley, while Canady is the third outside cornerback behind Carr and Humphrey.
As expected, the team ruled out defensive tackle Willie Henry (hernia surgery) and rookie tight end Hayden Hurst (stress fracture in foot). Neither player practiced at all this week.
Buffalo is similarly healthy. However, rookie wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (knee) has been ruled out and backup middle linebacker Julian Stanford (nose) is questionable after practicing on a limited basis the past two days. Starting outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander returned to practice after missing Thursday’s session and was removed from the injury report.
Respect for Bills’ Peterman
Nathan Peterman’s claim to fame thus far in the early stages of his NFL career involves throwing five interceptions in one half of his first career start against the Los Angeles Chargers in an eventual 54-24 shellacking on Nov. 19. But that’s not how the Ravens defense views the Buffalo quarterback.
“We’re not worried about that,” Mosley said of Peterman’s past. “We hope we can get five picks again or even more. That would be great. But he prepares just like we prepare. He’s going to go in with the play calls and a game plan. And we’re going to do our best to out-execute them.”
In the preseason, Peterman completed 80.5 percent of his passes for 431 yards and three touchdowns – all of which exceeded numbers posted by A.J. McCarron and rookie Josh Allen. And he threw only one interception and was sacked twice.
McDermott said Peterman is no longer the rookie he was last season.
“I think we all have to understand that he’s still a young player, just in the beginning parts, stages of his sophomore year, if you will,” McDermott said. “He’s only going to continue to grow and get better. He’s an extremely mature young man with a good mental mindset and a good football acumen. I think those are good attributes for a young football player.”
Despite ranking 20th against the pass a year ago, Buffalo surrendered only 14 touchdown receptions, the second-lowest total in the league, and was tied for sixth in interceptions with 18. Safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer were the only pair of teammates to intercept five passes each, and cornerback Tre’Davious White had four. “If you watch them, they’ve done a great job of keeping people from throwing long touchdown passes, and that helps,” coach John Harbaugh said. “They’ve given up a number of chunk plays, but they haven’t given up the big ones. I think they’ve turned people over a lot over the course of drives, and that’s why they had success last year. If you look at the turnover margin, especially in the games they won — they were plus-15 in the games they won, plus-9 overall. A lot of that goes to the secondary, where Sean is a great coach and that’s his area of expertise. So it certainly shows in the way their defense plays.” … The Ravens announced that its games will be aired on a Spanish radio network. Per a multiyear agreement with Tico Sports, Radio La Jefa WDMV 700 AM will be the Ravens’ flagship Spanish radio partner and will broadcast games on the radio and on the team’s mobile app. Tico Sports has already broadcast all five of the team’s games in the preseason.