"Yes, when we go into games now, defenses change up their scheme from what we see on film," said Lamar Jackson about seeing different defensive schemes.
On Oct. 15, 2019, two weeks before NFL’s trade deadline, the Ravens wanted help. And Marcus Peters was available.
The Rams cornerback’s first 16 games in Los Angeles hadn’t been his most consistent. His tendency to gamble had cost him here and there. He’d last made the Pro Bowl in 2016. But the Ravens had scrutinized Peters as a draft prospect in 2016, and “every chance we’ve had to cross paths since," coach John Harbaugh said last year, was "very positive.”
So the Ravens agreed to make a trade. They sent inside linebacker Kenny Young and what became the No. 173 overall pick in the 2020 draft to Los Angeles in exchange for Peters.
It turned out to be perhaps the deal of the year. In his first game with the Ravens, Peters returned an interception for a touchdown in a road win against the Seattle Seahawks. In his third game, he had another pick-six. Peters finished the season with three interceptions in 10 games and All-Pro honors.
“Anytime you talk about adding a player of that caliber ... you’re fired up,” Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale said Thursday, the anniversary of the trade. “I think the only one who was happier was Chris Hewitt and Jesse Minter, the secondary coaches.”
On a defense riding an 18-game streak with at least one forced turnover, Peters is a reliable source of takeaways. He has two interceptions in five games this season, and in a win Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Peters forced a fumble on his first career sack.
Since the Kansas City Chiefs drafted him No. 18 overall in 2015, he has an NFL-high 29 interceptions, 10 more than the runner-up, New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Peters, who signed a three-year extension this offseason reportedly worth $42 million, including $32 million guaranteed, has 36 total takeaways in that span, also the league’s most.
But maybe Peters’ most impressive skill is his nose for the end zone. Peters has seven defensive touchdowns since 2015, including six interceptions returned for scores. No one in that span has more.
“It was one of those things that you don’t know a guy until he gets here, and every day I’m happier because I got to know the guy,” Martindale said. “I’m getting to the know the guy and what a great person he is, what a great player he is. He wants to do all the right things, and he wants to be the leader on this defense, and he is.”
With the Ravens' passing attack ranked No. 31 in the NFL (178.8 yards per game), offensive coordinator Greg Roman said quarterback Lamar Jackson’s distribution matters less than the team’s execution. “There’s plays he executes perfectly and there’s some plays he’d like to have back,” Roman said. “We want to throw the ball to the open guy, and that could be anybody. At times, we’re really doing a good job of that, and at times we’re maybe getting a little greedy.”
Martindale said Eagles center Jason Kelce, a three-time All-Pro selection, is “the Tom Brady, Peyton Manning ... of centers in this league.” Martindale praised Kelce for how he studies defenses “just like we study offenses from a coach’s perspective. It’s really hard to get them in the right protections when you’re running the different kinds of pressures, because he’s so good at doing it.”
Asked about Bengals coach Zac Taylor’s decision to kick a last-minute field goal Sunday, which ended the Ravens' bid for their first shutout since 2018, Martindale said Taylor “knew what it was, because it was awful quiet when I yelled it across the field. There’s some people that take that as a victory. We’ll see. We’ll have plenty to talk about the next time we play them.”