C.J. Mosley stood on the sidelines during Thursday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Inside Linebackers Coach Don Martindale approached him with a challenge.
"It's about time to make something happen," Martindale said. "Go get your hands on the football."
The first-round pick took the message to heart, forcing a key fumble in the fourth quarter that helped seal the Ravens' victory.
"I have to give credit to [Martindale] because before I went out there he told me that it's time to get my hands on the ball. And it happened," Mosley said. "I just have to get my hands on the ball when I can."
The play was evidence that the No. 17 overall pick is continuing to make strides with a strong start in his rookie campaign.
"He's playing well," Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said. "He's a smart football player, he understands the game; he's great on the gameplan, great in the classroom."
"I feel like I'm doing well," Mosley added. "I'm still messing up a few things here and there, but that's what football is about. It's all about getting better every week."
Mosley quickly won a starting inside linebacker job during training camp, and he's become a central piece of the defense. Mosley is second on the team in tackles (15) behind fellow inside linebacker Daryl Smith (17). He also has two passes defensed and the forced fumble against the Steelers.
"Each game with the preseason until now I feel like the game has slowed down a little," Mosley said. "The first preseason game – I wouldn't say I was nervous – but I was a little jittery and didn't want to make any mistakes. Each preseason game was kind of like a confidence builder for me, letting me know each week that I can play in this league."
The Ravens have thrown Mosley right into the fire since Week 1, and he's one of five defenders who have played every defensive snap of the season. No other rookie on the team is getting nearly as much playing time.
The area where Mosley has struggled the most, according to Pro Football Focus, is in pass coverage. He thrives when defending the run, but has had a tougher time tracking down tight ends or running backs in coverage.
The Ravens will count on Mosley this week when they go up against Cleveland's strong running game. The Browns have averaged 152.5 rushing yards per game to open the season, and another strong game from Mosley could go a long way in keeping Cleveland from getting into an offensive groove.
"Like all rookies, [he] has his moments," Pees said. "Like all players [he] has his moments. Overall, I'm pleased with the progress that he's made."