Back in Slot, Kyle Hamilton Is Making Plays in Multiple Ways

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew is sacked by Baltimore Ravens' Kyle Hamilton during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2023, in Baltimore.

It was easy to spot Kyle Hamilton in Week 3, because he was often making an impactful play.

Hamilton's immense skillset as a versatile safety was on full display during the Ravens' 22-19 overtime loss to the Colts. He was a devastating blitzer with three sacks in the first half, the most first-half sacks by any player in franchise history.

His six quarterback pressures and three sacks across 11 pass rush snaps were tied for the most pressures by a defensive back in a game since 2018, per NextGenStats.

Moved back into nickel corner with Ar'Darius Washington (chest) on injured reserve, Hamilton finished with nine tackles, a pass deflection on a blitz, and a forced fumble. He blanketed slot receivers, tormented quarterback Gardner Minshew, and defended the run with force, using his quickness and instincts to knife into the backfield.

In his second NFL season, Hamilton is blossoming into a versatile defensive weapon who is blowing up plays in many ways.

"I call him 'The Avatar,'" edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney said. "He is 6-'4 at safety and can run, can hit. I like playing with him. I think he's a great player, smart guy. Kyle, he's going to bring it."

Hamilton gave credit to Clowney and other teammates for allowing him to have free runs at Minshew. However, it was Hamilton who showed the athletic ability and discipline to turn those opportunities into sacks.

How many times have you seen a rusher with a clear path let the quarterback slip away, by failing to wrap up or being juked? Hamilton wasn't having that. His timing and tackling technique were sound, and Minshew was in trouble whether he saw Hamilton coming or not. It took Hamilton less than four seconds to hit Minshew on each of his sacks.

"Anytime you get edge blitzed like that, it's a team rush," Hamilton said. "You have Clowney on the edge. He's one of the best pass rushers in this league. He's pretty much giving himself up so I can free up and get those sacks.

"Honestly, that's probably about as unblocked as you can get. You have to make your layups. They were having some protection issues. Guys in the backend (were) allowing time for me to get there (by) covering well."

Hamilton's versatility as a defensive weapon made him the first safety selected in the 2022 draft, and the Ravens weren't expecting him to fall to them with the 14th-overall pick. As a rookie, Hamilton had a rocky start, but impressed teammates and coaches with his mental toughness and desire to learn. He was a key part of the defense by the end of last season, often used as a slot defender in a three-safety look.

Because of the onslaught of injuries, Hamilton is still being used in multiple ways, giving Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald more leeway to show multiple looks and disguise coverages The Ravens secondary has been solid despite injuries to Marcus Williams (pectoral) and Marlon Humphrey (foot), and Hamilton likes being used as a crucial chess piece in the secondary equation. When he's asked to move into nickel coverage, he doesn't flinch.

Daryl Worley played 90 percent of the defensive snaps and Maulet entered the game late at nickel after Stone was hurt and Hamilton went back to safety.

"The coaches do a good job of sprinkling me in there every now and then – keeping it fresh," Hamilton said. "It doesn't leave my mind, and we can have that flexibility in our defense if I need to go to nickel or Geno [Stone] went down today – [I] went back to safety. Art [Arthur Maulet] came in and played nickel for a little bit. I think it just allows us to be a little flexible and just a little deeper at each position honestly, because guys can play so many different places."

Hamilton couldn't celebrate his Week 3 performance, however, because the Ravens ultimately lost despite his strong defensive game. That left Hamilton with a sour taste, but he has quickly released emotions can shift drastically from week to week in the NFL. Keeping an even keel is important, and Hamilton is looking forward to helping the Ravens get back on track Week 4 at Cleveland.

When Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson approaches the line of scrimmage on Sunday, he'll want to know where Hamilton is lining up.

"Every single week you have to practice well," Hamilton said. "You have to prepare well. You have to play well. In this league, every single week is a challenge, so we have to find a way to bring it."

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