Last Sunday, as the Ravens went against the Bengals, quarterback Joe Burrow threw to receiver Mike Thomas with All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey in coverage nearby.
Unlike dealing with most cornerbacks, the most dangerous part of Humphrey’s game comes after the catch, so that's what Thomas had to contend with after coming up with the ball.
Humphrey wrapped Thomas up and as he rotated around to make the tackle, swung his right arm directly into the football in Thomas’ left arm. Linebacker Patrick Queen scooped up the fumble and took it all the way back for a touchdown.
In his fourth season as a Raven, Humphrey has come into his own as not only one of the Ravens’ best players, but one of the best cornerbacks in the sport.
“MVP,” Ravens DL Pernell McPhee said after the game. “No, that’s a great guy, man. I’m happy for him. He studies the game. He treats the game right. He plays the game right. He plays it with a swagger – an attitude. He stays focused. Shoot, he keeps me in it when he comes on the field sometimes, yelling...He’s a ballhawk. So, yes, MVP — best cornerback in the league. Him and ‘Juice’ (Marcus Peters).”
Through five games this season, Humphrey has one interception, three forced fumbles and has allowed a completion percentage of 62.5 percent with zero touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference.
He was named a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in the 2019 season, which led to his $98.75 million, five-year extension to stay in Baltimore.
“I think he just picked up where he left off last year,” defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said Thursday. “He was a dominant Pro Bowl, All-Pro corner last year — both he and Marcus. The thing that he’s doing now is he’s starting to communicate even more than what he has in the past, and it’s great to see.”
With Peters, who signed an extension last year, and Humphrey in the mix as the team’s top two cornerbacks, they boast perhaps the top one-two punch in the league.
While Peters has a nose for the football when it’s in the air, Humphrey has a knack for turning the ball over after it's already caught. Between the two of them, they’ve forced seven turnovers in five games.
“I’ve just been impressed with how he’s attacking the football,” Martindale continued. “Whether the receiver caught it, because we were in tight man coverage and he didn’t have a chance to see it, or whether we’re in zone coverage and he’s attacking a ball if they’re throwing it his way, which a lot of times they’re not.”
That’s led to a tricky situation for opposing offenses, as the Ravens’ No. 1 ranked defense has two cornerbacks that have a propensity to force turnovers as good as anyone in the NFL.
“We were sitting there talking on the sideline,” Queen said. “We were like, ‘Bro, you see Marlon, why do you still run the ball?’ Just get down. It doesn’t make any sense. He does this over and over and over. But it’s football at the end of the day. They’re trying to get yards and Marlon is just Marlon. I’ll live with that situation any day.”
Queen, who played at LSU — a fierce rival of Humphrey’s alma mater, Alabama — has been so impressed he’s had to compliment a former member of the Crimson Tide. But he still doesn’t want to hear “Bama” around him.
That praise hasn’t been just from the defense, as the entire team has taken notice of the difference Humphrey has made through five weeks of the season.
“I knew Marlon was great,” Queen began. “I didn’t know he was this great, though. This was like something I’ve never seen before. That’s all the hard work that he’s putting in coming to light. So, I’m happy for him. I just can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.”