Ozzie Newsome: Matt Elam Has To Be Better


As Ozzie Newsome assesses the roster going into the 2015 offseason, Baltimore's general manger made it clear he expects more from his 2013 first-round pick.

Safety Matt Elam had a down season in his sophomore year, and the Ravens are counting on him to bounce back next fall.

"Matt Elam has to be a better football player for us next year," Newsome said Tuesday at the season-review press conference. "He has to be."

Elam, the No. 32 pick of the 2013 draft, finished the season with 50 tackles, a forced fumble and a half sack.

After starting 15 games during his rookie year, Elam lost his starting job last season and was used primarily in a rotational role. Elam entered the NFL with the reputation of a hard-hitting sure tackler, but he struggled with his tackling and pass coverage.  He finished the season with 10 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.

"I just want to get better and improve my game," Elam said after the season. "That's really all I can say."

Getting improved performance from Elam and the overall secondary is a priority heading into next season. The defensive backs unit struggled last year as it was hit hard with injuries, and improving that unit is one of the top items on the priority list.

"As we move forward into 2015, I would look at it like this time last year when we were talking about the offensive line," Newsome said. "I don't think we'll be talking a whole lot about the offensive line going into 2015 because of when we attacked that, we did it in a good way because of the process that the coaches and the scouts have." 

The Ravens improved the offensive line partly by bringing in a new center in Jeremy Zuttah, but a significant difference was getting guard Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele healthy. It's a similar situation with the secondary, as Jimmy Smith is returning from a season-ending foot injury and Lardarius Webb was hobbled by a back injury for much of the year.

Getting them back to full strength will make a significant difference for the unit, and Newsome expressed confidence about what the Ravens will get from the secondary next year.

"Getting Jimmy back healthy is going to be very big for us. That's a good start," Newsome said. "Having Lardarius go through a season where he's not in rehab and he's just getting ready to play [is important]."

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