The Ravens defense that finished last season leading the NFL in takeaways is finding it more difficult to replicate that success in 2018.
Through five games, the unit has forced six turnovers, tied with five other teams for 17th in the league. The leader with 15 takeaways is the Cleveland Browns, who secured a 12-9 overtime win against the Ravens on Sunday.
At the current rate, the Ravens are on pace to finish the season with 19 turnovers, which would rank as the third-lowest mark in franchise history. After five games last season, the defense had 12 takeaways en route to 34.
Several players said they are determined to add to their takeaways total.
“We can get some more turnovers,” strong safety Tony Jefferson said. “That’s obviously a point of emphasis every week, getting turnovers. I think we can do a better job at that. We have opportunities to do that with 11 games left. So we’ll be looking forward to that.”
While collecting turnovers can lead to pivotal moments in games, middle linebacker C.J. Mosley pointed out that the defense can’t afford to abandon its basic principles just to create favorable scenarios.
“Sometimes they fall in your lap, sometimes you have to go make a great play,” he said. “We’ve been in the right positions. We just haven’t had a lot of plays where we can get the ball off the quarterback or get the easy interceptions. If you keep doing your job and making the right reads and right drops, then those plays are going to come. We always emphasize [that] in practice because that’s one of our goals on defense — to lead the league in turnovers. If you emphasize [it] in practice, it will come in a game.”
The defense’s ability to create turnovers is more pronounced in the team’s wins and losses. In three wins, the unit has five takeaways, but only one in the two losses. But defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said he is confident that the defense will rediscover its touch in that department.
“I think they’ll come in bunches — like when you pull the olive out of an olive jar and they all come out,” he said. “I think that’s what happens with takeaways. We’re playing fundamentally sound, and we’re playing tight coverages. Last week, we had [seven] PBUs [pass break-ups]. Those PBUs become picks. I was really proud with the effort we gave last week and the effort we’ve already been giving in practice. So they’ll come in bunches. I’m not in a panic about them.”