Geno Stone is tied for the NFL lead with three interceptions through Week 6.
Did anyone see that coming before the season began? Quarterbacks are certainly having a hard time anticipating Stone lurking in the secondary, a savvy safety ready to make a play on the ball.
Being in the right place at the right time is nothing new for Stone. He's made a career out of overachieving, as a seventh-round pick from Iowa in 2020 who has always delivered for the Ravens whether starting, subbing, or playing special teams.
The Ravens' 24-16 victory over the Titans in London was another prime example. Stone made one of the game's biggest plays – a third-quarter interception with the Ravens clinging to an 18-13 lead and the Titans driving for a potential go-ahead score. That play took the Ravens' chances of winning the game, per Next Gen Stats, from 67% to 82%.
The pick by Stone turned the momentum back in Baltimore's favor, and his presence became even bigger after starting safety Marcus Williams (hamstring) was injured during the interception return and left the game. The Ravens were already without their other starting safety, Kyle Hamilton, who was ejected earlier in the quarter after a helmet-to-helmet hit.
With no Hamilton and no Williams, Stone came up big for Baltimore and it wasn't a surprise.
"I think he's a good example of someone that takes care of the details on a day-to-day basis, comes to work every day, does his best, doesn't complain, doesn't get all caught up in things like, 'Why is this not happening for me' or 'That's not happening for me,'" Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "When his opportunity comes, he's prepared, and he makes the most of it.
"That's something that it's just great to see, and it's a good lesson I think for young people. If they're going to watch that and say, 'I want to be great at something' or 'I want to be a pro football player,' watch Geno Stone and what he's been doing."
Stone was Baltimore’s highest-graded player in Week 6 according to Pro Football Focus, with a 90.1.
He has become increasingly important to the team's secondary over the last four years, finding his niche even after the acquisitions of Williams and Hamilton, two of the league's most talented safeties.
The defense didn't miss a beat last season when Stone started seven games after Williams fractured his wrist. When Williams suffered a pectoral injury in Week 2 and missed two games, Stone stepped in again, and he'll continue making an impact as a starter until Williams returns to the lineup. Williams is week-to-week, Harbaugh said.
"I feel like every time I get put in situations, good things happen," Stone said. "It's not a good thing when people go down, but I feel like it's a testament to the personnel, scouts, everyone we've got. They put good people in this organization. Whenever we get plugged in, we're going to make the same plays the starters would make."
Stone was asked how he felt about being tied for the league lead in interceptions.
"Wow, I didn't know that," he said. "They always say respect' is earned, not given. I try to go out there every day, earn my respect, show what I can do in this league. I feel like I've been doing a great job at it and I want to continue to build on that."
After making six career interceptions at Iowa, Stone entered the league confident in his playmaking skills. He has good hands, leaping ability and anticipation. Maybe he was underrated coming out of the draft due to his size (5-11, 210 pounds), but he hits hard and closes fast. Before Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw his interception Sunday, Stone had already read the quarterback like a book.
"I was in the post, leaning toward the single receiver," Stone said. "Really, I didn't expect him to throw it. As soon as he released it, I just wanted to go get the ball, let my instincts take over."
Stone was trolled by teammates in Week 2 after he intercepted Joe Burrow of the Bengals, then ran out of bounds after a 36-yard return. With blockers in front of him, Stone squandered a possible chance to take the return to the house, and he heard about it.
On Sunday, Stone cut back inside after making his interception and returned it 24 yards. It wasn't a house call, but he tried.
"I cut back this time," Stone said smiling. "I'm trying to get to the end zone. At least I'm catching the ball. That's all I care about."
As Stone makes more plays, more people around the NFL are starting to notice. But the Ravens have long known what they have in Stone – a player who's always ready when his number is called.
"What he's done every single day, which is work as hard as he can, be coachable and try to be his best one day at a time," Harbaugh said. "Then when the chance came, he was ready for it."