Ravens Defense In Desperate Need Of Turnovers


The Ravens' first touchdown of the season, and only in Week 1, came from an interception return.

When cornerback Jimmy Smith leapt over a Broncos receiver to pick-six legendary Peyton Manning, it looked as if the Ravens secondary had turned a corner.

Baltimore's defense has always been known for its aggressiveness, for creating chaos.

But since Week 1, the Ravens defense has fallen flat in the turnover department.

The unit hasn't forced a turnover in the past four games, a stretch of 48 drives. Baltimore ranks second-to-last in the NFL in total takeaways with just four. Only the Cowboys have fewer.

"We have not gotten enough turnovers," Head Coach John Harbaugh bluntly said Wednesday. "We have not gotten enough negative plays on defense. Those are two very critical areas for us."

Not getting enough turnovers is nothing new for the Ravens defense. It struggled with the same issue last season, finishing 22nd in the league with 22 takeaways.

What's odd is that the Ravens are doing the things that would seemingly result in turnovers, including pressuring the quarterback.

The Ravens are fifth in the league with 20 sacks this season. Baltimore was tied for second in the NFL with 49 sacks last year.

One would think hits on the quarterback would lead to a few more turnovers. After all, that was the case on the team's last takeaway when outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil hit Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and forced the ball out. Linebacker C.J. Mosley picked up the fumble and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown.

But, strangely, the Ravens don't pounce on many fumbles. They have forced six this year and recovered just one. Last year, Baltimore forced 22 fumbles and recovered half of them. Sometimes, it's just the way that funny shaped ball bounces, and it often hasn't bounced Baltimore's way this season.

Quarterback pressure also can lead to turnovers for the secondary. It forces quarterbacks to make quick decisions, and those can sometimes be the wrong decisions. Pressure forces mistakes.

Smith has had his opportunities. According to Pro Football Focus, he's been targeted 52 times through seven weeks. He was thrown at just 39 times through seven games last season. Smith had a pass come right to him in San Francisco, but dropped it.

"At the end of the day, we've had a lot of them in our hands that we have to make the play on," Harbaugh said. "There have been balls on the ground where we haven't gotten the ball. A lot of times they bounce right back. I can think of two punt situations where they bounced right back into the returner's hands."

The Ravens have continued to try to scheme up turnovers. They've blitzed a lot and come up with disguised coverages intended to bait opposing quarterbacks.

So what else can Baltimore's defense do to get its hands on the ball more?

Cornerback Lardarius Webb said the Ravens have to make it a habit. And habits are developed every day in practice.

"Make interceptions, go strip the ball off running backs," Webb said. "The things you want to see in games, make it happen in practice."

Harbaugh also pointed to effort as the main determinant. After all, that's something the Ravens can affect outside of simply not having the kind of playmaking personnel that once roamed in Baltimore, men such as ball-hawking safety Ed Reed.

"If we run to the ball better than anyone else ever has in the history of the game," Harbaugh said. "You find a way to have that kind of a mindset. You hit people as hard as they need to be hit. You strip. You're in position to do all of those things, because you're playing through your responsibility and your techniques, so you're in the right spot [and] good things happen."

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