Ravens see Will Hill as their ball-hawk safety

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Free safety Will Hill made his first start for the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday and played a season-high 60 snaps. Could this be Hill's role going forward?

"I’m planning on him being the safety," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said.

Hill's emergence has coincided with a reduced role for former first-round pick Matt Elam, who played 27 snaps Sunday (the second fewest of his career). The decision to go with Hill over Elam is based on their ability to cover.

Elam is at his best playing closer to the line of scrimmage but struggles in pass defense. He's the worst coverage safety in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus.

The Ravens hope Hill, who was suspended for the first six games of the season, can help limit the big pass plays. Quarterbacks have a perfect passer rating (158.3) when throwing passes of 40 yards or longer against the Ravens' defense, completing 5 of 6 passes, including three touchdowns.

"When he gets a little more comfortable, I think you’re going to see some range in the deep part of the field, which is really what we need at safety," Pees said. "We need some guys that can go hawk the ball from back there deep and go make plays on the ball. I think he has that ability."

The Ravens also need a playmaker in the secondary. Jimmy Smith is the only Ravens defensive back with an interception this season, and he's out with a season-ending foot injury.