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Ravens defense, stingiest in the NFL, evokes memories of franchise’s best for cornerback Jimmy Smith

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh talks about the play of wide receiver Miles Boykin and secondary player Jimmy Smith.

Playing on the Ravens defense, as several players described it Sunday, is “fun.”

In the team’s near-shutout win over the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-3, five Ravens defensive backs recorded a sack, a first for an NFL regular-season game. The defense forced a turnover for the 18th straight game, the longest active streak in the NFL.

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And entering their Week 6 game on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Ravens have the stingiest scoring defense in the league, allowing 15.2 points per game.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith, who has been with the team since 2011, said this year’s iteration of the defense is among the most well-rounded he has been a part of.

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“It’s similar to some of the defenses we had, as far as the veteran leadership, the young players,” Smith said Wednesday on a video conference call. “But I think we have an extremely talented defense this year. 2011 comes to mind when I think of it, 2017 I want to say, another defense that I could think of when I think of some strong defenses we had. But this ranks right up there with all of them as far as depth, talent and just veteran leadership.”

In 2011, Smith’s rookie season, the Ravens defense ranked top five in pass defense and rush defense and recorded 48 sacks, tied for third most in the league. While the 2020 Ravens defense hasn’t been as stout against the pass — they’re allowing 243 yards per game — they rank fifth against the run, allowing 92 yards per game.

This year’s unit is also among the best in the NFL in forcing turnovers; its seven fumble recoveries rank at the top of the league and its 10 takeaways are tied for second best. Under defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale’s stewardship, the Ravens defense has been the most aggressive in recent years. After the pass rush got off to a slow start to the season, the Ravens rank fifth in sacks (16) and sixth in pressure rate.

Smith attributed the defense’s continued success to several offseason acquisitions, including landing defensive ends Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe, a duo that Martindale refers to as the “Monstars." The team also drafted middle linebacker Patrick Queen, who on Wednesday earned his first Player of the Week honors.

“I think we’re still building, but I think it started last year,” Smith said. “We had to add some pieces to what we started last year. We added the Monstars in the front, we call them, to stop that run because that was a problem for us last year. And adding pieces in our linebacker room as well, building all that together we assumed that we could pick up from where we left off and try to get better.”

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