Matt Elam spoke quietly with reporters as he packed up his locker to head into the offseason.
The former first-round pick had just wrapped up his second season in Baltimore, and it was a frustrating campaign for the safety. Elam went from a starter playing nearly every snap at the start of the season, to a role player getting limited reps by the end of it.
"I just want to get better and improve my game," Elam said. "That's really all I can say."
Elam finished the season with 47 tackles, one forced fumble, five passes defensed and a half sack. He was initially used as the starting strong safety, but then the Ravens shifted him to a role where he primarily defended the slot receiver and played near the line of scrimmage.
A significant part of the issue for Elam was that he struggled as a tackler, which was an area where he excelled as an All-American at Florida. Elam finished the season with 10 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF).
A pair of those missed tackles came during the divisional-round loss to the Patriots where Elam allowed running back Brandon Bolden and wide receiver Danny Amendola to run by him along the sidelines for extra yardage. Amendola slipped past Elam to get an additional 15 yards and a touchdown.
After the missed tackle against Bolden, defensive leader Terrell Suggs pulled Elam aside to talk with him.
"The sideline has] never missed a tackle. Push his [butt] out of bounds,” Suggs said while he was mic’d up for [this week’s “Ravens Wired." "That's their game. They're built on yards after catch, you see what I'm saying? Either wrap him up or push his [butt] out of bounds."
An area where Head Coach John Harbaugh did see progress from Elam near the end of the season was on the practice field.
"His practice production and effort did improve," Harbaugh said. "And he's never done a bad job with that. But I think he was more consistent over the last six or seven weeks than he had been at any time since he'd been here before. He really put a lot of effort into it and did improve as a player because of that."
Elam will now head into the offseason knowing that he needs to make strides to regain his starting spot in 2015. Harbaugh said the team will look to bring in more safety competition, and he also liked the development he saw from safety Will Hill as a starter.
The competition for playing time will be stiff when Elam and the Ravens return for work. The next few months will be a critical time for him.
"I just want to improve my game, get better at the small things and get consistent," he said.