The Baltimore Ravens won 19-17 against the Cincinnati Bengals in dramatic fashion in Week 5. However, the win has been clouded by Marcus William’s injury, which landed him on IR. The injury is said to be a dislocated wrist. It has ruled Williams out for a “significant” time.
Five weeks into the season, Williams was one of the Ravens star performers. The 26-year-old safety has been one of Baltimore’s best players this season. He had made three interceptions, one tackle-for-loss, and 33 total tackles over the first five weeks of the season.
Williams was one of Baltimore’s new signings for the 2022 season. He was signed to a five-year $70 million contract in the off-season and was the marquee signing of Baltimore’s free agency haul. Having suffered from a depleted secondary in 2021, GM Eric DeCosta had made it his top priority to acquire more quality depth and youth at cornerback and safety. Kyle Fuller was another name brought in, but he landed on IR after Week 1 with a torn ACL.
The Ravens have had difficulty staying healthy the last few seasons. Much of the reasoning for signing Williams was his constant availability with the New Orleans Saints, he hardly ever missed a game. It seems, once again, that this is the case of Baltimore’s bad luck with injuries.
Having been so instrumental to the Ravens defense of late, it will be interesting to see how the Ravens adjust to losing their star safety.
Kyle Hamilton’s Time to Shine
In the 2022 NFL Draft, the Ravens selected versatile safety, Kyle Hamilton with the 14th overall pick. Hamilton has had his moments but has also been liable for making some rookie mistakes.
In Week 2, the rookie was beaten deep on multiple occasions, allowing Tyreek Hill and the Miami Dolphins to complete a 21-point comeback in the fourth quarter to win 42-38. The mistakes saw Hamilton get less game time in Week 3, playing just 16 total snaps. However, he showed a marked improvement as he allowed just 10 yards on 14 coverage snaps. He also forced a fumble in the fourth quarter, which was crucial to the Ravens sealing the 37-26 win. His star performance ultimately earned him more playing time.
Overall, Hamilton has been very solid in a rigid, defined role for the Ravens. Prior to William’s injury, they were arguably one of the league’s best safety tandems.
Without Williams, it will be interesting to see how Hamilton performs. The two had formed a strong partnership and their chemistry on the field was palpable. The injury to Williams means that Hamilton is truly being put through a trial by fire in being the core playmaker in the safety room.
Many had assumed that, with Hamilton developing over the season, the Ravens would find more creative ways to deploy him. However, part of that plan relied on the availability of Williams. William’s absence suggests that Hamilton’s coverage versatility will only be flexed when the safety room is back to full force.
When asked whether his role would change, Hamilton said that he expects to just be himself. Part of that is because Geno Stone, Williams’ direct replacement, should be competent enough to hold his own.
Geno Stone Direct Replacement
After Williams left the game against the Bengals, Stone stepped in as the direct replacement. Stone was a seventh-round pick in 2020 but has, so far, carved out a decent career in Baltimore. Due to the depletion of the secondary room in 2021, Stone was forced to play 15 games for the Ravens and he managed one interception.
The 23-year-old has largely been a special teams player but played 56% of the defensive snaps against the Bengals. Through five weeks, Stone has managed a respectable PFF grade of 65.2. While these grades can be misleading, 65.2 matches up with the eye test as Stone seems solid when called upon.
There is no doubt that Stone will not be expected to have the same impact and production that Williams has. The hope is that William’s’presence will be compensated for by Baltimore’s other playmakers. Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey have been among the best cornerbacks in the league this season and they will need to keep up their strong performances to help out Stone. And, likewise, the Ravens will be asking Hamilton to make more of those splash plays. Stone is certainly a serviceable backup, but he is unlikely to entirely make up for the loss of Williams on his own.