Team’s take­away num­bers tak­ing a dip

Af­ter lead­ing league last sea­son, team cre­at­ing nearly half as many turnovers

Baltimore Sun - - RAVENS & NFL - By Ed­ward Lee and Jonas Shaf­fer ed­ward.lee@balt­sun.com jshaf­fer@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Ed­wardLeeSun twit­ter.com/jonas_shaf­fer

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 had12 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 Safety Tony Jef­fer­son (23) cel­e­brates af­ter an in­ter­cep­tion last sea­son against the Tex­ans. Jef­fer­son has one in­ter­cep­tion this sea­son. [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.” CB Averett, RB Turner out: Ravens rookie cor­ner­back An­thony Averett and rookie run­ning back De’Lance Turner will miss Sun­day’s game against the Ten­nessee Ti­tans with ham­string in­juries, the team an­nounced Fri­day.

Averett, a fourth-round pick, has not played since Week 2. Turner, an un­drafted rookie who has played spar­ingly on of­fense this sea­son, did not prac­tice Thurs­day or Fri­day af­ter be­ing lim­ited Wed­nes­day.

The Ravens sec­ondary is hop­ing for im­proved health else­where. Slot cor­ner­back Tavon Young (hip) is ques­tion­able for Sun­day’s game in Nashville — he missed Thurs­day’s prac­tice and was lim­ited Fri­day — as are start­ing cor­ner­back Bran­don Carr (knee) and de­fen­sive back-line­backer An- thony Levine Sr. (ham­string). Carr and Levine were listed as ques­tion­able en­ter­ing Sun­day’s game against the Cleve­land Browns but played sig­nif­i­cant snaps.

Also ques­tion­able this week are de­fen­sive tackle Michael Pierce (foot), who has missed two of the Ravens’ past three games, and out­side line­backer Tim Wil­liams (ham­string), who was in­ac­tive Sun­day and lim­ited in prac­tice all week.

For the Ti­tans, start­ing safety Kenny Vac­caro and re­serve line­backer Will Comp­ton were ruled out. For­mer Ravens out­side line­backer Ka­malei Cor­rea is ques­tion­able, and Pro Bowl of­fen­sive tackle Tay­lor Le­wan is avail­able af­ter re­cov­er­ing from a foot in­jury. Ed­wards could move up: With Turner ruled out, Ravens prac­tice squad run­ning back Gus Ed­wards could make his NFL de­but Sun­day, coach John Har­baugh said.

Ed­wards is “the ob­vi­ous choice” as a po­ten­tial re­place­ment, Har­baugh said be­fore the in­jury re­port was re­leased. “I think we’re very con­fi­dent with ei­ther one of those guys [Turner or Ed­wards]. They’re both kind of in the same bucket and do the same things.”

With run­ning back Buck Allen’s heavy work­load on of­fense and on spe­cial teams, Har­baugh ac­knowl­edged it would be “tough” to en­ter a game with just Allen and Alex Collins avail­able.

“You leave your­self a lit­tle light if you do some­thing like that,” Har­baugh said.

Ed­wards, an un­drafted rookie from Rut­gers, had a team-high 53 car­ries for 174 yards in the pre­sea­son.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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