Ravens notebook: Defense having strong preseason on third downs

The Ravens have picked up where they left off on defense when it comes to getting off the field on third down.

It’s only the preseason, but entering Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Washington Redskins at M&T Bank Stadium, the unit had allowed opponents to convert only 29.0 percent (18 of 62) of their third-down chances into first downs. Only eight other defenses in the NFL had stingier third-down success rates.

The Ravens ranked 10th in the league last season in third-down percentage on defense, marking the fifth time in the past seven years that it had finished in the top 10 in that category. Keeping opposing offenses short of the first-down marker is an annual priority, according to strong safety Tony Jefferson, and this season has been no different.

“That’s been a real stress this whole offseason,” he said. “Let’s get off the field on third down, let’s get three-and-outs, let’s get our offense going. Our offense is moving right now. Offense is doing a great job. Defensively, we just have to keep stacking. We want to be the best defense in the NFL, and getting off the field on third down is going to get us to our goal.”

On third down in four exhibition games, the Ravens have collected 11 sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries while surrendering two touchdowns. In the first half against Washington, the defense allowed the Redskins to go 4-for-6 on third down.

The caveat is the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams did not put their starting offenses on the field in the first two preseason games, and a good portion of the defense’s success came against second- and third-stringers. But strong safety Chuck Clark said the emphasis on third downs has filtered down to even defenders who likely will not make the active roster.

“Our key is just focusing, executing and getting off the field and making turnovers,” he said. “The main part with that is just communicating and vibing off the field, and then it carries over to the field, and everybody jells out there on the field.”

Playmakers on defensive line

Bronson Kaufusi became the second Ravens player to get multiple sacks in the same game in the preseason when he took down Washington quarterback Kevin Hogan twice in the first half.

Kaufusi, who sacked Hogan once each in the first and second quarters, joined outside linebacker Kamalei Correa in that department. Correa, who was traded to the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday, had three sacks in a 17-16 win over the Bears on Aug. 2.

Only two players in the league have recovered two fumbles in the preseason, and one is Patrick Ricard.

The defensive end joined the Arizona CardinalsVontarrius Dora as leaders in fumble recoveries when he stripped running back Samaje Perine and pounced on the loose ball with 6:22 seconds left in the second quarter. Ricard made the play despite being held by former Ravens center Tony Bergstrom.

Ricard, who was rated by Pro Football Focus as the NFL’s top fullback last season, also stopped running back Rob Kelley for a 3-yard loss in the first quarter.

Short-handed

With only 49 of 90 players in uniform Thursday, the team was especially short-staffed on defense, which had only 21 players at its disposal. And a decision to play only six defensive backs looked costly when cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste left the game after suffering an injury at the end of the first quarter.

The team announced Jean-Baptiste’s right forearm was being checked. Rookie Jackson Porter replaced Jean-Baptiste on the field at the beginning of the second quarter.

With low numbers in the secondary, Kai Nacua and rookie Darious Williams started at safety. The unit also had only four linebackers: outside linebackers Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams and rookie inside linebackers Chris Board and Kenny Young.

Dumervil retires

After racking up 105½ sacks and five Pro Bowl selections in 12 seasons, former Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil has retired from football, he announced Thursday on Twitter.

"After spending a great deal of time talking to my family and prayerfully considering what’s next in my career, I have made the difficult decision to step away from the NFL at this time,” Dumervil wrote. “It’s been an incredible 12-year run.”

Dumervil, who spent four seasons with the Ravens and set the franchise’s single-season record for sacks with 17 in 2014, played for the San Francisco 49ers in 2017, making 6½ sacks and 13 tackles in 16 games. But San Francisco declined to pick up his option, and the 34-year-old Dumervil was a free agent.

Dumervil said he felt fine physically to continue playing.

“My body still feels great, and I know I can still help a team win,” he wrote. “I will miss being on the field, particularly on Sundays. But I also have a wife and two young children who need me and a real estate business that I can now turn my attention to full-time. Football was certainly a huge part of my life, but it wasn’t my entire life. I look forward to my next chapter with no regrets.”

After six years with the Denver Broncos, Dumervil joined the Ravens, and from 2013 to 2015, he racked up 32½ sacks, 116 tackles and five forced fumbles in 47 games. But in his last season, he played in only eight games and finished with three sacks, 11 tackles and two forced fumbles.

Extra points

With offensive tackles Ronnie Stanley (right knee strain) and James Hurst (undisclosed), guards Marshal Yanda (offseason shoulder surgery) and Alex Lewis and center Matt Skura in street clothes, and rookie offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. relegated to the sideline, the starting offensive line consisted of Jermaine Eluemunor at left tackle, Randin Crecelius at left guard, rookie Bradley Bozeman at center, Nico Siragusa at right guard and Andrew Donnal at right tackle. … Rookie kicker Kaare Vedvik’s 56-yard field goal with 4:19 left in the second quarter was the team’s first of the preseason from beyond 50 yards. Vedvik and Justin Tucker had missed their five previous attempts with the latter going 0-for-4. … Defensive tackle Carl Davis, running back Kenneth Dixon, tight end Vince Mayle and wide receiver Breshad Perriman represented the Ravens for the coin toss.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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