John Harbaugh: Matt Elam Is 'Very Important'


Just as offensive line improvement was a large focus of last offseason, getting better in the defensive secondary is of utmost importance this year after Baltimore's injury-riddled unit finished 23rd in the league in passing yards allowed per game.

The Ravens signed Kendrick Lewis, expecting the longtime starter to bring his veteran know-how to the group. Restricted free agent safety Will Hill is likely returning.

So where does safety Matt Elam fit in?

Elam had a tough 2014 campaign in which he saw a decline in defensive snaps. He struggled at times in coverage and with his tackling, and finished the year with 50 tackles, a half sack and one forced fumble.

If the Ravens are going to improve in the secondary, they may need more from Elam.

"Matt's very important because he's our first-round pick," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday at the NFL Owners Meetings.

"He's a talented football player and he wants to be a good player. He's got to become a good player. That's his burden to bear, along with us as coaches, to do everything we can to help him get there. We're going to do our best to make that happen."

The Ravens drafted Elam with the last pick of the first round (No. 32) after they won Super Bowl XLVII. They liked his highly competitive playing style and tackling he showed in college at Florida.

Elam started to emerge near the end of his rookie season, especially when playing near the line of scrimmage. Last year, he spent more time as an extra cornerback due to injuries at the position and because of his flexibility.

After the season finished, Elam told reporters "I just want to get better and improve my game. That's really all I can say." General Manager Ozzie Newsome echoed that statement, saying in February, "Matt Elam has to be a better football player for us next year," Newsome said last month at the season-review press conference. "He has to be."

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