Matt Elam was direct Wednesday when talking about where he needs to improve his game.
The second-year safety has taken over a key role on the back end of the Ravens defense this season, and he stressed that he needs to improve communication with the players in front of him.
"It's all about communicating and knowing what you're doing," Elam said. "I just feel like we have to get better every day and continue to get better. It's a long season, so we have to continue to communicate and get on the same page. I feel like we're getting better and progressing."
Breakdowns in that communication led to problems last week against the Browns.
The most notable issue came in the fourth quarter when Cleveland wide receiver Taylor Gabriel was wide open down the middle of the field for a 70-yard completion. Elam came up towards the line of scrimmage on the play, allowing Gabriel to run behind him when he was the last line of defense.
Gabriel fell after making the catch, but Elam didn't touch him to officially rule him down. So Gabriel got back and started running for the end zone until cornerback Jimmy Smith caught up to him and brought him down for the tackle.
"It was a mis-communication," Elam said about the play. "It ended up that a man ran free, and then we didn't touch him down. It was a great effort play by Jimmy Smith. All I can say is that it was a lack of communication. We didn't communicate pre-snap and it happened."
The play ended up not hurting the Ravens because after the Ravens tackled Gabriel short of the end zone, the defense shut down Cleveland and then cornerback Asa Jackson blocked a field-goal attempt by Browns kicker and former Raven Billy Cundiff.
Elam drew the most criticism for allowing the receiver to run free on the back end of the defense, but Head Coach John Harbaugh explained that the overall secondary has to avoid those kinds of miscues.
"Those are poor plays, not just by Matt, but by the whole group," Harbaugh said. "As coaches, we take that personally. We feel like we didn't do a good enough job preparing guys and we have to do a better job – all of us – making sure we get better."
On some of the breakdowns, Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said that communication wasn't the problem for the Ravens.
"There's a couple of them where there wasn't any communication. It's just line up and play, and just play your position," Pees said. "We got beat on a three-deep coverage that I don't what communication there is there, other than get your [butt] deep."
Pees expressed confidence that Elam and the secondary would be able to fix the mistakes from last week.
"It's all correctable. There isn't anything that he can't correct," Pees said. "Everything that happened to us Sunday, big-play wise, is easily correctable and it has to be corrected."
The start of the season has been up and down for the 2014 first-round pick. He has shown good instincts playing around the football and delivering big hits, but he has also allowed big plays like the one against Cleveland.
Elam started the season playing more of his natural strong safety position, but injuries have forced him to move around in the secondary. He has spent the last two weeks playing some nickel back as top cornerback Lardarius Webb slowly returns from a back injury.
Elam is his own toughest critic, and the Ravens expect him to make strides in the coming weeks.
"We all can get better," Harbaugh said. "I like it when guys feel like they can play better, and they feel like they need to play better, and they want to do well. That's all of our guys. So, we can all play better. We can all coach better."