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Kyle Hamilton is still most effective from the slot, but he shouldn’t be limited to just one area

According to his head coach, he won’t be despite a historic performance reprising the role that made him a rising star.

Indianapolis Colts v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The most dominant and consistently disruptive defender on either team in the Baltimore Ravens Ravens’ 22-19 overtime time loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday was second-year defensive Kyle Hamilton. Hands down and without a shred of doubt.

By halftime, the 2022 first-round pick had already become the team’s sack leader through three games by recording a trio in the first two quarters alone. He came crashing off the edge virtually untouched on all but one of them and two of them resulted in drive-killing plays.

The first two came in back-to-back drives to open the game and the third resulted in a forced fumble that should’ve been recovered and possibly even returned for a touchdown. Hamilton was a near unstoppable force all game and finished with nine total tackles, two tackles for loss, a pass deflection, and three quarterback hits.

According to ESPN Stats & Info per Jamison Hensley, Hamilton became the first defensive back to have that many sacks in a single game since Jamal Adams in Week 11 of the 2019 season in a 34-17 win over Washington Commanders. That was Adams’ best season with the New York Jets where he recorded 6.5 total sacks and was voted to the All-Pro First Team by the Associated Press. Per NextGenStats, his six quarterback pressures and three sacks across 11 pass rush snaps were tied for the most pressures by a defensive back in a single game since 2018.

Had the Ravens been able to pull out the win, Head Coach John Harbaugh certainly would’ve been giving him a game ball in the locker room. Nevertheless, he received his well-deserved praise from his teammates and coaches during postgame press availability.

“I call him ‘The Avatar,’” veteran edge defender Jadeveon Clowney said. “He is 6-’4 at safety and can run, can hit. I like playing with him. I think he’s a great player, smart guy. Kyle, he’s going to bring it.”

Hamilton didn’t want to take all the credit for his tremendous success and gave a shoutout to Clowney and some of his other teammates for giving so many unimpeded pathways to Colts backup quarterback Gardner Minshew.

“Honestly, that’s probably about as unblocked as you can get,” Hamilton said. “You have to make your layups. They were having some protection issues. Guys in the backend (were) allowing time for me to get there (by) covering well.”

After struggling to find his footing at the start of his rookie year, Ravens Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald found a role for the 2022 first-rounder that maximized his rare blend of size and athleticism about midway through the season. He deployed Hamilton as a hybrid slot defender and finished as the highest-graded safety in the entire league by the end of the year according to Pro Football Focus.

The Ravens placed starting nickel corner Ar’Darius Washington on injured reserve following Week 2’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals and instead of just having Arthur Maulet slide into that spot, Macdonald had Hamilton reprise his old role for most of the game. It worked out tremendously well.

“The coaches do a good job of sprinkling me in there every now and then – keeping it fresh,” Hamilton said. “It doesn’t leave my mind, and we can have that flexibility in our defense if I need to go to nickel or Geno [Stone] went down today – [I] went back to safety. Art [Maulet] came in and played nickel for a little bit. I think it just allows us to be a little flexible and just a little deeper at each position honestly, because guys can play so many different places.”

As good as Hamilton has looked in a more traditional safety role to start the season, weaponizing his elite skillset as a hybrid slot defender might be too alluring and effective of an option not to consider utilizing it even more moving forward. On Monday, Harbaugh told reporters that Hamilton wouldn’t be making the switch back to his hybrid role full-time despite his sensational outing on Sunday.

“We played a three-safety type of defense in this game partly [due to] personnel [and] partly [due to] gameplan, I would say,” Harbaugh said. “He definitely plays well in [the slot]. It’s definitely something that you have to think about, because he’s kind of a difference-maker down in there.”

“He does super well when he’s playing back, too. [I’m] just really happy with the way he’s playing. We’re going to use him in different spots.”

The Ravens have been without three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey for the first three games of the season as he recovers from foot surgery. And ball-hawking free safety Marcus Williams is currently working his way back from a pectoral injury that he suffered in the season opener.

Having a player that can play a multifaceted role can be weaponized to impact the game from every level. This incredible asset shouldn’t be limited to one role in particular based on the game plan any given week or situation within a game.