Safeties, Secondary Aiming To Find 'Killer Instinct'


Will Hill got a call from John Harbaugh this week to come up to his office.

The head coach wanted to talk with his starting safety to discuss what was going wrong on defense. The Ravens had blown fourth-quarter leads in all four of their losses, and Harbaugh wanted to get Hill's take.

Hill explained his solution to Harbaugh. 

"For myself, the defense and the whole team, we just have to all get that killer instinct and put away games. And stop playing around," Hill said. "We need to get that killer instinct. We need to stop being complacent because when we get the lead we think, 'Oh we're going to win,' instead of just going out there and finishing the job. That's what we have to do."

The Ravens gave up too many key plays last week against the Browns, allowing quarterback Josh McCown to throw for 457 yards and convert on 12-of-19 third downs. The defense also gave up big plays in the fourth quarter to Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green in Week 3 after Baltimore had taken the lead. 

The common theme that players and coaches have highlighted throughout the week is that the defense needs to play with more consistency. Breakdowns in a few key situations have cost the Ravens dearly, and Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees emphasized in a passionate press conference Thursday that consistency is the key for the defense.

"They just have to learn that when they take it to the field, be consistent with it. Don't worry," Pees said. "Just let it go. Let it go. Don't play cautious."

To play with the kind of fire Hill envisions, while also avoiding the breakdowns that have occurred, the safety stressed the importance of communication. He and fellow safety Kendrick Lewis are responsible for calling out the coverages to the rest of the secondary. The cornerbacks don't always come back to the huddle between plays, which places the responsibility on the safeties to relay the calls so everyone is on the same page.

"What Kendrick and I have to do is get better communication with the corners," Hill said. "Everybody has to hold everybody accountable. He needs to hold me accountable every play and I need to hold him accountable every play. We can't cut each other slack."

The Ravens also want to see their safeties come up with more plays around the football. Hill has one interception, and had another one wiped away because of a questionable penalty call at the end of the Oakland game.

Part of the reason the Ravens brought in Lewis this offseason is because they saw potential in him to be the much-needed ball hawk they've been seeking since Ed Reed left in 2013, but he's still looking for his first turnover off the year.

"It's going to come. I try not to press," Lewis said. "I'm used to making plays, but I try not to press and stress about it.  I just play my game, play within the scheme of the defense and my plays will come as the season progresses. It hasn't fallen my way yet, but in due time."

The Ravens have high expectations for the secondary group and particularly the two safeties. The Ravens signed Hill to a contract extension this offseason and brought in Lewis on a three-year deal, and the hope was for them to solidify the back end of the defense.

The results through the first five weeks haven't been what the Ravens hoped to get in return, but the group believes they can still be the kind of unit the Ravens expected at the start of the year.

"I have no doubt in my mind about this secondary group or about this team," Hill said. "I know what we have and what we can do. We just have to do it."

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