It is very early, and what happens in the preseason is not always indicative of what happens in the regular season. But thus far, the Ravens lead the NFL in total takeaways with six and takeaways per game with three.
The defense led the league last season in interceptions with 22 and takeaways with 34, and in an encouraging sign, it appears the unit is picking up under defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale where it left off under his predecessor Dean Pees.
“We’re real excited about that,” said Martindale, who replaced Pees after last season. “We just want to keep adding to it. When you’re getting takeaways, you have a fast defense. I think that’s what you guys can see. We’re playing really fast.”
The team has intercepted three passes and recovered three fumbles in victories over the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams. The offense has turned three of those takeaways into two field goals and one touchdown, which is exactly what the defense hopes for.
“You always want to get turnovers,” said strong safety Chuck Clark, who has one of the unit’s three interceptions. “Like the offense wants to get touchdowns, the defense wants to get turnovers. So that’s always fun.”
Clark and defensive tackle Patrick Ricard pointed out that the Ravens’ ability to take away the ball is honed in practice. The team organizes drills in which defensive players try to strip the ball to cause fumbles and try to catch errant passes off tips.
The defense finished Monday’s practice at the team’s headquarters in Owings Mills with four interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns by cornerback Brandon Carr and Ricard.
“We have to practice it,” Ricard said. “When we practice it, it’s going to happen in games. That’s what the coaches preach to us, and we try to do the best we can.”