The Ravens have made it clear throughout training camp that they need players who are ready to contribute right away this season. Roster spots will be hard to come by, and the Ravens can't afford to hold any of them for players they deem as projects.
Terrence Brooks and Matt Elam both seem to have taken that message to heart.
The safeties came into training camp on the roster bubble, and both of them have elevated their performance over the last few weeks. They have consistently found themselves around the football in practice and the Ravens' first preseason game, and are making a strong case to earn spots on the 53-man squad.
"I'm finally in my zone now," Brooks said after Wednesday's practice where he reeled in an interception. "They demand a lot out of me being a third-round draft pick. Coming here to play the safety position, I feel like I'm held to a different standard. I just have to go out here and compete."
Brooks and Elam are at virtually the same turning point in their careers. They were both high draft picks – Elam was a first-rounder – but have struggled to play up to those standards. They have also dealt with injuries, as Brooks tore his ACL/MCL in 2013 and Elam missed all of last season with torn biceps.
But now they're healthy and fighting for jobs, and the Ravens have liked the way they have responded.
"Both of those guys are playing well," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "[Elam has] made a bunch of plays. I'd say Terrence Brooks is in the same category. He hasn't quite had the flash plays that Matt has had, but he's made a lot of solid plays as well."
Elam and Brooks both saw plenty of snaps in the preseason opener against Carolina, and they both graded out positively (Brooks plus-1.7, Elam plus- .4) according to Pro Football Focus.
They then followed that up by notching multiple interceptions in practice. They have made a push while veteran safety Kendrick Lewis is currently sidelined with an injury.
"I'm playing faster, off of instincts," Brooks said. "I feel like that's what they want out of me, and I just have to keep taking it to another level each day."
Baltimore's starting safety jobs are essentially locked up by veterans Eric Weddle and Lardarius Webb, but the backup jobs are up for grabs. It's unknown how many safeties the Ravens will keep on the roster, but the key for Elam and Brooks is prove to the coaching staff that they are capable of playing at a consistent level throughout the season.
"The jury is still out with all of those guys," Harbaugh said. "The ability to do it day-in and day-out, week-in and week-out, to be consistent and to establish that you've really got a feel for the game, I think that, for any young player, is really important."