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Matt Elam Picking Up Defense Quickly

Posted May 6, 2013

The first-round pick showed off his leadership with his 'forceful' communication at rookie minicamp.


When the Ravens made safety Matt Elam their first-round draft pick last month, they pointed to his athleticism and leadership as two key components they liked about his game.

Both areas were on display at last weekend’s rookie minicamp.

Elam was active and flying all over the field during the three days of practice. He quickly learned the defense, allowing him to play fast and instinctive.

“He’s smart,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said. “He picked it up quickly. He jumped right back there and made calls with force; he was very forceful back there. He played fast. He looked good.”

Coaches varied Elam’s assignments so he played up near the line of scrimmage to defend the run and also deep as the free safety guarding the middle of the field. Elam was more of a strong safety in college, but the Ravens want him comfortable in either position.

The collegiate All-American didn’t take long to establish himself as a leader of the defense, barking out calls for the rest of the group, much like his predecessors Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard.

“He really did a nice job of communicating in the back end, which is not usual for a rookie,” Harbaugh said. “Most rookie defensive backs – even all defensive players – have a tough time with the communication part of it, because they aren’t confident enough to make the calls.”

Rookie minicamp is mostly about introducing the new players to the playbook and philosophies to give them a taste of life in the NFL. The rookies have to learn the format and tempo of practice, and pick up an understanding of the language and terminology the Ravens use.

It’s a three-day crash course packed with information, and coaches can quickly tell when players like Elam stand out from the pack.

“There’s always separation right away. Guys do start separating themselves,” Harbaugh said. “I think they all did well as a group, but individually you could see where guys might be a little further ahead than other guys."

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