Dean Pees: Matt Elam Having Best Offseason Yet


Dean Pees started his answer before the reporter had even finished his question.

Pees was asked about the performance of third-year safety Matt Elam during the offseason program, and the Ravens defensive coordinator made his assessment crystal clear.

"Best camp he's had, bar none. Not even close," Pees responded. "I expect big things out of Matt. I really do."

Pees' comments fall in line with what's been said about Elam the last couple months. The 23-year-old defender reported to the voluntary program in better shape after shedding about eight pounds since the end of last season.

He's played faster and more intuitively during recent practices, and the coaches are taking notice.

"That means a lot coming from Dean Pees," Elam said. "I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help this team win and be in the best situation."

The Ravens have high expectations for their first-round pick of the 2012 draft.

Elam started 15 games during his rookie season, but he struggled during his sophomore campaign and ultimately saw his playing time diminish toward the end of the year. Elam finished the season with 50 tackles, four passes defensed and a half sack.

Elam entered the NFL with a reputation as a sure tackler, but had trouble in that area and missed 18 tackles last year, according to Pro Football Focus. The Ravens can't get a sense for Elam's improvement as a tackler until the pads come on in training camp, but Pees likes the way his safety is "running to the ball."

"We don't know [the tackling] yet, but as far as his communication, knowing the defense, being in the right spots, all of those things, it's the best camp he's had," he said.

Elam has also shown more confidence during practice in Organized Team Activities. He knocked down a touchdown pass intended for tight end Crockett Gillmore in a recent practice, and he quickly popped up to signal incomplete and waive his finger toward the quarterback.

It was the kind of play that was common during his All-American career at Florida, and the Ravens hope to see more highlights like that from him in 2015.

"I know there are some critics out there, but I'm just telling you, I think No. 26 is going to be a good football player," Pees said. "I think he's having a great camp."

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