The Ravens demonstrated their faith in safety Will Hill this offseason by signing him to a two-year contract extension reportedly worth $7 million. In Sunday's opener, the starting strong safety showed exactly what the Ravens liked in him to make that investment before the regular season.
Hill was all over the field against the Broncos, playing strong coverage on the back end of the defense and also flying to the ball to make plays in the running game.
"Will played really well," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
Hill finished the game with four tackles and allowed just one catch for seven yards in coverage. He graded as the team's second-best defender, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Ravens used him in a variety of ways. The 6-foot-1, 228-pound safety has the size to play as virtually another linebacker, and he took plenty of snaps near the line of scrimmage to stuff the running attack.
Hill looked right at home in that role, particularly when he brought down Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman for a four-yard loss on a pitch play. That tackle in the backfield stalled Denver's drive and led to a field goal attempt.
"He was a factor in the backfield on toss-crack late in the game," Harbaugh said.
Perhaps more impressively, the Ravens also had Hill play a significant role in the mental aspect of the game against quarterback Peyton Manning. The future Hall of Famer is known for his ability to read coverages and pick apart defenses, but the Ravens kept him from every settling into a rhythm.
Hill had a big part in that.
"I thought he was over the top of his coverages really, really well. He and [safety] Kendrick Lewis both did a really good job of disguising coverages," Harbaugh said.
"The fact that they were kind of playing the quarterback game against Peyton, who's the best at it, and did a really good job of hiding coverages, hiding pressure intensions and creating some free runners for our blitzers [was great]. The safeties and the linebacker have a lot to do with that."
The play from Hill and Lewis make a big difference in Baltimore's secondary, and the group played at a completely different level from where they were at the end of last season. Hill now has a clear understanding of the defense after getting thrust into the lineup last year, and the Ravens hope Sunday's performance is a sign of things to come.