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Matt Elam, Michael Huff's Versatility Allow For Disguise


For the last two years, the roles for Ravens safeties have been clearly defined.

Ed Reed was the free safety roaming the deep middle of the field and Bernard Pollard was the strong safety who came up to defend the run.

This season, the distinction is much less rigid.

Veteran Michael Huff and rookie Matt Elam both have experience playing either safety spot, and they have been getting reps at both positions. The ability to be versatile on the back end allows the Ravens to be creative in how they call the defense.

"We will be able to play them interchangeably at free safety and strong safety, and hopefully create some problems for people," Head Coach John Harbaugh said Thursday.

Huff, an eight-year veteran, played a variety of roles during his seven years in Oakland. He was primarily a free safety, but also has the ability to play cornerback in a pinch. He played corner last year when Oakland took on the Ravens and picked off quarterback Joe Flacco.

As an All American at Florida, Elam switched between free safety and strong safety. He's known as a heavy hitter who can come up against the run, but also has playmaking abilities in coverage.

The Ravens run a number of multiple looks on defense, and the flexibility with the two safeties will let them disguise their coverage and make it tough on opposing quarterbacks.

"We're both interchangeable," Huff said. "We can both play strong safety, free safety, we can both play the nickel. We can do it all, so that way offenses don't know who's doing what before the snap. I think it will help the defense."

A key reason the two safeties are able to mix it up and play either position is their speed. They have more speed in the secondary than Reed and Pollard had, which allows them to match up against tight ends or wide receivers in coverage.  

"They are both very fast," Harbaugh said. "You are talking about the safeties: They are both very fast. They both cover exceptionally well, and they are both really good tacklers."

Expectations are high for Huff and Elam as they're being asked to replace a future Hall of Famer in Reed, who spent the last 11 seasonsin Baltimore.

"We know we have big shoes to fill," Huff said. "Obviously, Ed is one of the greatest if not the greatest ever to play the game. Definitely, it will be a tough task, but obviously, we are our own players.

"We just have to go out there and kind of play our game, not kind of live in the past, [but] to start our own legacy. I think we will be just fine."

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