Tavon Young, Ravens Newest Ball-Hawk
Last week I wrote about a hometown guy playing for the Baltimore Ravens, Terrance West. This week out of sheer coincidence, I take a look at another hometown product. Fredrick Douglass, then Potomac High School cornerback, Tavon Young.
Discuss your thoughts on this topic on our message board.
Tavon Young went on to Temple University and for his senior season, earned the honor of donning “1” on his jersey. A number some schools save only for the most special players, if they so desire to wear it.
Young was a solid cornerback for the American Athletic Conference school. But from day one, he would always be written off as nothing more than a slot corner in the NFL due to his diminutive stature. Young measured in at 5’9″ for the 2016 NFL Draft. But he plays much bigger than that.
Some teams may have taken Young completely off their draft board for being 5’9″. The Ravens did not, selecting him in the fourth round. For some teams, size matters.
Another way to look at it is that at 5’9″, Young’s been playing against bigger people his whole life. It didn’t slow him down in high school where scouts often came to watch his teammate, Ronald Darby. (CB, Florida State. 2015 second round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills). It didn’t slow him down in college, notably shutting down Will Fuller in their matchup with Notre Dame to the tune of three catches for just 27 yards when covering him. (Fuller is 6’0″, 2016 first round draft pick of the Houston Texans). Young also owned one on one drills at the Senior Bowl against converted WR Braxton Miller (6’1″, third round draft pick of the Houston Texans) and Aaron Burbridge (6’0″, sixth round pick of the San Francisco 49ers).
Why would it slow Young down at the top level? He’s an attacking cornerback. He’s always looking to make a play on the ball, rather than trying to be a blanket. Its hard to be a blanket at 5’9″, so he needs use his fast closing speed and excellent ball skills to his advantage.
The Ravens did place Young at slot corner to begin his career and he drew rave reviews. Leading up to the start of the regular season, Dean Pees had this to say about his rookie…
“The thing I like is I’ve seen some production out of him. He shows up around the ball, and his name gets mentioned when we’re in there watching the film a lot. That’s what you want to do as a rookie. You want to be noticed for the good reasons. You don’t want your name mentioned a lot the other way, and it really hasn’t been with him. He has very few mistakes.”
Pees wasn’t kidding. Now, we all have seen the incident that led to Odell Beckham putting an exclamation point on his career day last Sunday. Young and veteran safety Eric Weddle collided, leaving Beckham wide open with room to run. Young has taken the high road and placed the blame on himself, the rookie, rather than the 10-year veteran for the freak miscue. But NBC’s Rodney Harrison during the Sunday highlights noted that it is the safeties job to look out for and avoid the rub or pick the offense tries to set up. If anyone would know, it’s Rodney Harrison.
A little more on that play later, but getting back to Young, Pees wasn’t kidding about Young showing up around the ball. Getting his name called for good reasons. In limited snaps to start his career Young has come up with a two-point blocked PAT return against Cleveland, his first career INT the next week against Jacksonville, a fumble recovery against the Raiders, and lost in Sundays theatrics in the Giants game was the athletic interception he made.
Also lost in Sunday’s game was the progression Tavon Young went through. To start the game, it was Young starting opposite Jimmy Smith at corner on the outside. Where he is too small to play, they said. We saw the first of him there for a few snaps in the Redskins game the week prior and they must have felt comfortable starting him there over Shareece Wright and Will Davis. While it was Smith and Young on the outsides, it was Jerraud Powers manning the nickel position. Also worth noting that they played quite a bit more dime packages that were prominent in the preseason, but absent otherwise until week 6.
When Jimmy Smith exited the game with a concussion, something odd happened. The coaching staff put Wright and Davis in the game on the corners and moved Young back to the nickel spot. It was in the nickel spot that Young made a misstep in allowing a touchdown. He is still a rookie after all. But it was also Will Davis allowing the first deep TD to Beckham in the game. Shareece Wright also responsible for allowing some sizable gains in his direction. Aside from the rookie moment Young had, he was solid in coverage and limited anything his way.
Then on the last drive of the game, the Ravens staff put Tavon Young on an island with Odell Beckham. One on one on the outside. First pass was off-man coverage and he wasn’t targeted. Next one was Zone coverage he passed Beckham off, closed in on the pass in the flat and prevented the first down. The next play, well we know…
Why the dramatic changes once Smith left? I’m assuming based on the starting lineup that Smith, Young, Powers at nickel is what the coaches deem to be the best set up. Wouldn’t it be next man up when Smith goes down? Is say Young, Davis, Powers at nickel worse than Davis, Wright and Young at nickel?
One last thing I wanted to point out on that final play. The Ravens were in a dime set. Asking rookie Tavon Young to cover arguably a top three receiver in the NFL. Decided that Anthony Levine should play nickel along side Will Davis at the other corner, where Levine doesn’t usually play. Lardarius Webb and Eric Weddle at the safety spots. Kendrick Lewis was the roaming hybrid dime linebacker, which he isn’t one and shouldn’t even be dressing for this team. This is what the coaches thought was the best plan of attack. Why? I’m not questioning the use of the dime. I’d be fairly certain that the frequent use of it in this game was mainly because of losing C.J. Mosley. The choice of personnel and assignments are what I’m not clear on. More overthinking perhaps? Young plays the slot most of the game then you switch him to the hardest job on the field in the most critical moment and expect him to just shut him down? Without the collision, who knows? Beckham was in position to make the grab anyway, but Young probably tackles him and the drive continues.
If not for the collision, this play could have turned out bad on any number number of levels given the assignments though.
With what the coaching staff did, Tavon Young, you are the number two cornerback on the team behind Jimmy Smith. If Jimmy Smith isn’t an option, who on this team would you want covering Odell Beckham in the most crucial moments of a game when defending a lead? John Harbaugh’s actions say Tavon Young. Frankly, I have to agree with him. No other corner on the team is giving you anything and Webb is clearly unfit for it. Playing a little corner in the Redskins game and quickly showing why he was moved to safety in the first place.
Young has progressed nicely in just six games, hasn’t he? Another great mid-round draft find by Ozzie Newsome and company. But maybe it just doesn’t say much about the depth at the position.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]