Ravens slot corner Tavon Young could miss the entire 2019 season after suffering a “serious” neck injury in practice, head coach John Harbuagh told reporters, including Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic (Twitter link).
“Tavon has a more serious issue than we thought. He has a neck issue. It’s a disc issue. That’s a serious injury. He could be out for the remainder of the season. We’ll know soon. But it doesn’t look good for Tavon,” Harbaugh said, per Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com (Twitter link).
“There is an outside chance that you’d opt to try to see if it’ll heal. But I don’t think we’re recommending that right now. If he gets the procedure done, he’ll be fine and good to go. That’s probably the best thing to do.”
Any neck injury is inherently ominous, and the Ravens obviously view Young’s long-term health as a priority. But it doesn’t sound like the issue is a potential career-ender. Indeed, Harbaugh said that even if Young undergoes the surgery, he should be ready to play in 2020 (Twitter link via Hensley). If Young misses the 2020 campaign, he will have been sidelined in two of his four professional years — a torn ACL during summer workouts ended his 2017 season before it began.
When he has been healthy, however, Young has played like one of the best nickel cornerbacks in the NFL. The 2016 fourth-round pick has seen action on more than 1,400 snaps with the Ravens, managing two interceptions during that time. Among 22 qualifying slot corners, Young in 2018 ranked fifth in Pro Football Focus’ coverage snaps per reception. Meanwhile, the Ravens ranked eighth in DVOA against opposing slot receivers, per Football Outsiders.
Pleased with Young’s production, the Ravens signed him to a three-year, $25.8MM extension that will keep him under contract through 2022. At signing, Young’s pact made him the NFL’s highest-slot corner, although his $8.6MM annual average has since been topped by Justin Coleman, who landed a $9MM yearly salary on a free agent deal with the Lions.
Losing Young will hurt, but Baltimore boasts arguably the league’s best secondary and has the depth to withstand’s Young’s absence. Brandon Carr, who played 242 snaps in the slot in 2018, is probably the most likely candidate to take over inside in a configuration that would allow Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith to play outside corner. Ravens coaches have also been impressed with Cyrus Jones‘ play in the slot, tweets Hensley.
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