Ravens Expect Will Hill To Be The Ball Hawk


The Ravens need a playmaker on the back end of the defense.

Baltimore's defense has just five interceptions on the season, and cornerback Jimmy Smith is the only member of the secondary to come up with one. Now Smith is done for the year after season-ending foot surgery, and the Ravens are looking for a ball hawk.

Safety Will Hill could be just the man for the job.

"We need some guys that can go hawk the ball from back there deep and go make plays on the ball," Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said. "I think [Hill] has that ability."

The former New York Giant has a reputation as a playmaking safety who can roam the back end of the defense and capitalize when quarterbacks give him a chance to get his hands on the football.

In 12 games with the Giants last season, Hill had two forced fumbles and two interceptions, including a pick-six.

"That's the main part of my game," Hill said. "I pride myself on my range and my ball skills."

Interceptions have been elusive for the Ravens – they are tied for 22nd in the NFL – and improving in that area has been a point of emphasis. The Ravens have come close to notching key turnovers in recent games, and the next step is actually making the plays on the ball.

"It's just a mindset. We have to feel like the ball is ours. We have to own it," Hill said. "I feel that they should be coming along pretty soon because we are getting around the ball. We just have to capitalize on it."

Hill is heading into his fourth game with the Ravens after serving a six-game suspension to begin the season, and he has taken over a starting job. Before Hill was eligible, the Ravens primarily used a heavy rotation of safeties instead of having one or two players to take nearly every snap.

The Ravens eased Hill into action in his first two games, giving him 24 and 12 snaps in those contests. He then started for the first time against Pittsburgh and played 63 snaps.

Now the Ravens don't plan on taking him off the field much at all.

"I'm planning on him being the safety," Pees said. "We're looking for him to play a lot."

Hill's first game in the starting lineup didn't go the way he expected, as the Ravens defense gave up six touchdowns to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He said that he was disappointed in himself for the outing, and pointed specifically to the 54-yard touchdown by wide receiver Antonio Brown where he missed a tackle because of Brown's stiff-arm.

Hill called that touchdown "one big embarrassing play for myself," and he even tweeted an apology to fans after the game.

"That's out of my character," Hill said. "I feel I can play much better than how I played in that game."

The Ravens need an overall improved effort throughout the secondary, especially with the news that Smith is done for the season. The Ravens have shaken up the unit by cutting cornerbacks Chykie Brown and Dominique Franks, and then promoting rookie Tramain Jacobs from the practice squad and signing free agent Danny Gorrer.

There are several shifting pieces on the back end of the defense, and Hill's continued development is a critical part of the equation.

With three games now behind him, Hill said he's "definitely" starting to feel like his old self, and that could mean good things for the defense.

"We felt like when we got him back, we just had to get him up to speed," Pees said. "I really do think that when he gets a little more comfortable, I think you're going to see some range in the deep part of the field, which is really what we need at safety."

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