Ravens Not Satisfied, But Have High Hopes For Matt Elam


It's no secret that safety Matt Elam struggled in 2014, both with tackling and in coverage. General Manager Ozzie Newsome confirmed as much Tuesday.

"I think it's readily known that we have not been satisfied with the way he's played thus far," Newsome said on a conference call with PSL owners Tuesday night. "And I don't think Matt has been satisfied with the way he's played thus far."

But it's too early to give up on the Ravens' 2013 first-round pick.

The Ravens certainly aren't, and they already see a difference in Elam this offseason.

"We still have high hopes for Matt Elam," Head Coach John Harbaugh said.

Elam was a near instant starter for the Ravens in 2013. He made 77 tackles and one interception, and didn't have many major hiccups.

Elam switched to playing more of a strong safety and sometimes emergency cornerback* *in his second year. He was picked on at times in coverage despite the Ravens trying to protect him with different schemes.

He had trouble breaking down and tackling in space, and was credited with 18 missed tackles by Pro Football Focus (PFF). A couple missed tackles in the AFC divisional loss to the Patriots were costly.

Elam was the lowest-graded player on the Ravens defense and the 78th-ranked safety in the NFL, per PFF. Elam is a very prideful player, and the struggles naturally bothered him.

The Ravens are moving on from that, however, and so is Elam. He will get another chance to prove himself.

"We're all looking at 2015 as a different year," Newsome said.

"Just seeing him walk around the building, he's carrying himself a little bit different, he's carrying himself a little more confident. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do out on the field. We'll let that determine his fate."

Speaking with reporters at Lardarius Webb's charity softball game last week, Elam expressed more self-assurance.

"I got myself stronger than I've ever been," he told The Baltimore Sun. "I'm just ready to go and break out this season. The offseason went well. I'm ready to start the season. I'm ready to play ball again."

Harbaugh said Elam has entered this offseason in "tremendous shape." He's lost about eight pounds of fat and his body fat percentage is "way down" to about six percent.

"He looks good; he's moving around well," Harbaugh said.

Still, Elam will have to battle for playing time. The Ravens have returning starter Will Hill, rehabbing third-round pick Terrence Brooks and added free-agent Kendrick Lewis, who Harbaugh praised as being a "tremendous player" and is very smart and active on the back end of the defense.

Harbaugh said he's looking for a safety that scares defenses from attacking vertically, somebody with Ed-Reed-like ball-hawking prowess.

"We'll just have to see how it shakes out," Harbaugh said. "We'll have to see who steps up and makes plays for us."

Elam isn't the only 2013 draft pick the Ravens want to see more from. Second-round linebacker Arthur Brown only played in four games last year and didn't make a defensive tackle. Brown was active for 14 games as a rookie and made 15 tackles.

"Arthur Brown is another young man who, at this point of his career, needs to find a way to get to the field," Newsome said. "When you've got C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith both playing at a very high level, it's hard for someone like Arthur to get to the field.

"If those guys [Brown and Elam] put forth the effort and show the improvement that we think they should show, then both of them will get a chance to be on the field this year."

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