Ravens coaching staff likes what they see from safety Kendrick Lewis

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— The Baltimore Ravens have used high draft picks to address the safety position in recent years. Matt Elam was a first round pick in 2013, and Terrence Brooks was a third round selection the following year. Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees talked about the importance of solidifying the back end of the defense, specifically the safety position after practice on Saturday. There is heavy competition between Will Hill and Matt Elam at strong safety but newcomer Kendrick Lewis has a stronghold on the starting free safety spot.

The move to add Lewis to the team was not met with much fanfare, but it is likely to be one that will really help a secondary that only generated a franchise low six interceptions last year. There was a dearth of big plays from the Ravens secondary last season. According to head coach John Harbaugh, the team is placing greater emphasis on making more plays this season.

“We need to create turnovers. We need to be a defense across the board that people fear in the sense that you want to throw the ball out there. …There’s a good chance it’s going to come back the other way,” Harbaugh said. “You have to have that from your back end. That’s something that has been a big emphasis for us, so we’re working hard on that.”

Lewis is a ball-hawking safety that had two interceptions for the Houston Texans last season. He returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts. The 26-year old safety has already made an impact in training camp with his new team. Lewis has intercepted two passes in his first three practices. He has done a great job covering Maxx Williams on plays designed to get him the ball in seams.

There were a number of times last season when the Ravens had miscommunication in the secondary which resulted in allowing a big play. A veteran like Lewis can help avoid such miscues. Lewis is recognized as being a very smart player. Pees said that was something that he was told about Lewis when they signed him.

“We heard that he was a very intelligent football player, but there are a lot of guys that are ‘intelligent’ football players and you find out maybe they’re not. He’s everything as advertised, and more.”

Pees also pointed out that he likes the way Lewis is very definitive when making the calls in the secondary. There is no room for being indecisive. The safety has to make the call and get everyone lined up. The safety is the quarterback of the defense. He sees the whole field in a way that is very similar to the quarterback.

When talking to Lewis, it becomes clear that he has the mindset of a quarterback that is joining a new team. To Lewis, it’s important to build camaraderie with his new teammates. He wants to get to know his teammates on and off of the field.

Harbaugh gave a description of Lewis that sounds very similar to the way that someone would describe Joe Flacco. “He doesn’t say much in terms of walking around the building. He just puts his nose to the grindstone and goes to work,” Harbaugh said. “I see him in the weight room. I see him in the meeting room. I see him on the field just working like crazy.”

The secondary needs a vocal leader, another quarterback trait, and that’s precisely what the team added when they signed Lewis. “You have to be vocal,” Lewis said. “You have to check in and out of coverages. You have to get guys lined up who may be crossed on a different formation. Being vocal is part of my game. It’s the part of the game that I’ve brought here with me.”

Common qualities that the Ravens coaching staff mentioned when asked about Lewis is that he is a smart player that communicates well. Defensive backs coach Chris Hewitt echoed that sentiment and mentioned an added bonus.

“Kendrick [Lewis] is a great football player. He’s not just a guy that just plays the run; he plays the pass extremely well. But his biggest strength right now is [being] a guy that comes in and he brings leadership to our secondary. He’s a great communicator. He’s a guy that lines everybody up and he’s ahead of the game. [He’s] a very smart football player, and we’re very thrilled to have him.”

The Ravens need to shore up the secondary on an otherwise top notch defense. They are a team that doesn’t add high profile free agents often, rather opting for a lower cost veteran player that fits their scheme. Lewis seems like he could be the team’s latest successful low cost acquisition.