INDIANAPOLIS — Five minutes down the road from M&T Bank Stadium, a young boy named Curtis Jacobs watched hours and hours of Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis as they made their mark on Baltimore football history.

Jacobs’ mother, Michelle, is a big Ravens fan and instilled an appreciation for the team’s style, especially on the defensive side, in her son. As he grew, he went to play at McDonogh High School, down the road from the Ravens practice facility, and then at Penn State alongside Ravens outside linebacker Odafe Oweh.

Now, as he prepares for the 2024 NFL draft, he hopes he’ll have the chance to meet the Ravens’ new era of legends.

“Over the years, there’s been a couple recent years I’ve really been looking at [Ravens linebacker] Roquan Smith and [San Francisco 49ers linebacker] Fred Warner,” Jacobs said Wednesday at the NFL combine. “Both of those guys, they’re incredible in coverage, really sideline-to-sideline guys.”

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Jacobs said it’s very obvious that they know what they’re doing at all times, and he would love to ask them about their preparation. The two have helped change the way the position is played, forging a path for smaller, athletic linebackers.

Ravens’ influence is spreading

The Ravens defense became the first in NFL history to finish a season first in scoring defense, sacks and takeaways.

College players took notice.

Defensive end Chop Robinson, who played with Jacobs at Penn State and also grew up in Maryland, said the Ravens stand out for the speed they play with. Robinson is projected by many outlets to go before the Ravens pick at No. 30, but he said it would be awesome to be close to home and to get to play with Oweh.

Missouri defensive lineman Darius Robinson has been projected as the Ravens’ first pick in several mock drafts, and he said he loves the way the Ravens play: “They run and they hit, and that’s just my mindset.”

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Jaylen Harrell has a more intimate knowledge of the Ravens defense. He played edge for Michigan, where he worked with Mike Macdonald, the Ravens’ defensive coordinator the last two seasons (he’s now the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks). He watched the Ravens more closely the first season Macdonald was there and drew inspiration from Matthew Judon. He said the Ravens do a good job of putting their players in position to succeed.

Although Macdonald spent only one season at Michigan, the Wolverines continued to play a similar system and were regarded as one of the best defenses in college football, much as the Ravens defense was in the NFL. Harrell doesn’t know the full history of it, but he said it certainly seems as though the “Ravens’ [coaching] tree is hot right now.”

A trip to the DMV

Jacobs is biased — he admits that — but he feels, if you want to get some of the best recruits in the nation, you should head to the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region.

Yes, he knows Georgia is considered a recruiting hotbed. And of course there are Florida, Texas and California, among other strong regions.

“But I feel like DMV football is one of the upper echelons,” Jacobs said. “If not top three then top five.”

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In addition to his own teammate, Robinson, Jacobs shouted out his toughest opponent, Michigan running back Blake Corum. He played against him in high school and college. Corum was born in Virginia, but he attended St. Frances Academy in Baltimore.

“He’s a VA kid, but Baltimore raised him,” Jacobs said.

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Just as the Ravens pride themselves on being “dawgs,” the young local players take pride in a similar identity, Jacobs said.

“Whether it’s Baltimore, whether it’s Northern Virginia, whether it’s D.C., it’s a bunch of guys that just ... they’re hungry, and they want to win,” Jacobs said.

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