Undrafted rookie Jaylen Hill has a chance to start in 2017

The Baltimore Ravens have done a lot to improve the secondary in the offseason yet season-ending injuries to Tavon Young and Maurice Canady will test the depth of the secondary, especially the cornerbacks.

The Ravens added young and veteran talent to the cornerback group. Signing Brandon Carr in free agency, drafting Marlon Humphery, and signing Trevin Wade/ Brandon Boykin late have helped improve the depth significantly. But both Tavon Young and Maurice Canady are most likely done for the season and Marlon Humphery has not been able to stay on the field due to a lingering hamstring injury. This injury shortened his debut vs. the Dolphins to only 7 snaps and has affected him in practice as well. I am sure the coaches will cautiously approach this and will give him as much time as he needs. But will it cost more missed practices and potential missing Week 1? Time will only tell but now, the nickel cornerback spot is wide open as Humphery would be better used on the outside. Boykin was also brought in but he is dealing with an undisclosed injury and Trevin Wade is the other veteran option if the Ravens are comfortable starting him. But overall, this helps Jaylen Hill’s case to start in the nickel cornerback spot due to his play as one of the best preseason cornerbacks based on performance so far. If Hill continues to impress, the Ravens might have found another undrafted gem like last year’s Michael Pierce, who was one of the top run stopping defensive tackles according to Pro Football Focus.

At Jacksonville State, Hill led Jacksonville State with 4 interceptions in 2015/2016 as a redshirt junior with 3 pass deflections and 37 total tackles. In 2014, Hill had 7 pass deflections (team-high) and 3 interceptions with 52 total tackles (starting 12 games as a soph0more). These highlights show his playmaking ability, consistent tackling, and sticky coverage ability. These traits he showed in college have transitioned smoothly to the NFL so far and have helped his game as a undrafted rookie trying to make the roster.

The undrafted cornerback out of Jacksonville State has shown why he should be on the 53-man roster come Week 1 in September. Even though it is against 2nd and 3rd team offenses, the 5’10 186 lbs. corner showed up and got his first interception in his first NFL game against Washington. In two of the preseason games, Hill has 6 solo tackles, 3 passes deflected, and 1 interception. According to Pro Football Focus, Hill has been targeted 15 times and only has allowed 5 receptions total with a 17.4 passer rating for opposing quarterbacks throwing to him.

His first NFL game was especially impressive. Against Washington, Hill was targeted 9 times and allowed only 3 receptions for a total of 44 yards and allowed an average of 1.83 yards per coverage snap. That week, Hill had a 10.6 passer rating for the Washington quarterbacks throwing to him, which was the lowest pass rating among the most targeted cornerbacks in the league that week. In his second game against Miami, Hill followed up with another solid performance, giving up only one pass for 2 yards when targeted a total of five times, according to Pro Football Focus.

Jaylen Hill should suit up with the starters in preseason week 3 or 4 to see how he holds up with the starting Buffalo Bills wide receiving core. Especially if Humphery is a no go after dealing with a soft tissue injury during the game against Miami. Also, Brandon Carr could move to nickel corner if they decide to put Humphery on the outside. But the biggest issue to Hill starting is that the veteran Ladarius Webb has that spot and is playing the nickel corner/ hybrid safety role but if Hill keeps playing like this, the Ravens should make a roster spot for him regardless (at least as a backup). At least, if Webb disappoints at the nickel corner role or another injury occurs to the cornerback group, the Ravens have a potential starter in Hill.

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Andrew Kim

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