DeShon Elliott didn’t really want to talk for this story. He’s seen the buzz online about how he’s practicing, but he’s not putting much stock into it.
“That’s just practice, man,” Elliott said. “I have to do that in a game for it to matter.”
Elliott was one of the most obvious standouts in offseason practices, thrusting himself into a conversation about how the Ravens are going to get him on the field in a talented secondary. Still, he knows he has much to prove.
Elliott made probably the best play of OTAs with a diving interception in which he ranged far from the middle of the field. Then he made another rangy pick in minicamp on a long pass from Robert Griffin III.
The Ravens have one of the best safety duos in the NFL with Earl Thomas III and Tony Jefferson. They may have the best trio too with Elliott.
“To me, he’s just picked up where he left off right before he got hurt, and it’s just going to be another fun piece,” Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said. “I know we have two really good safeties right now, but we’ll find spots for the good football players.”
Elliott’s rookie season was lost when he suffered a broken forearm in a preseason game in Miami last season. He did it while covering a kickoff.
“That was my first real injury,” Elliott said. “It was just a shock. I know I was going to ball out last year.”
Elliott was turning heads in practice last year too. He just seemed to be around the ball a lot. It’s not all that surprising when looking at his college stats. He has a nose for the football.
During his junior year at Texas, Elliott notched six interceptions, nine passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He returned those interceptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Over his three-year career, he collected nine picks.
Yet Elliott wasn’t drafted until the sixth round in 2018, after 16 other safeties came off the board. There were questions about his speed and ability to play in space as some draft analysts labeled him as more of a box safety despite his eye-popping stats at one of college football’s biggest programs.
“I’m still wondering that myself,” Elliott said when asked how he went so late. “I thought for sure I was going on Day 2.”
In the end, it all worked out for the better. Elliott said he loved watching Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson play, even before he was a Raven. Elliott grew up watching Thomas, who also starred at Texas, and now sits in the same room with him.
“It’s unreal,” Elliott said. “To be able to sit with [Thomas] and watch film with him, pick his brain, and watch him in practice, it’s just unreal.”
Thomas approves of the young mentee’s start so far this offseason.
“He’s been making plays left and right,” Thomas said. “I think it’s a Texas thing.”
Elliott worked out at APEC in Fort Worth, Texas this offseason. It’s the same gym where reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, trains. Did Elliott get any interceptions off Mahomes this spring?
“I could have,” he said with a smile. “I will someday, you watch.”
The Ravens go back to Kansas City on Sept. 22, but will Elliott get a chance at Mahomes? Martindale said Baltimore uses a lot of different personnel groupings.
They could drop Jefferson or Elliott closer to the line of scrimmage and let the other roam the back end with Thomas on obvious passing downs. The Ravens could deploy them as blitzers in defensive back heavy packages. Baltimore has been creative finding snaps for Swiss-Army knife safety Anthony Levine and could do the same with Elliott.
But Elliott isn’t counting his chickens just yet.
“That’s cool that [Martindale] said that, but I know I have to prove myself more,” Elliott said. “I have to make a splash on special teams first, and I have to keep making plays on defense. We’ll see in training camp and once the games roll around.”
Here are players who flashed during the three days of practices open to the media.