Ravens safety Matt Elam is going into his second NFL season, but if third-round draft pick Terrence Brooks wins the starting job at the other safety position, that would make Elam the wily, old veteran among the starting safeties.
The idea of starting two young safeties could be unsettling to some, but the most veteran player in the Ravens secondary, cornerback Lardarius Webb, said Elam is ready to take command this season.
"The person who is just really growing is Matt Elam," Webb said this week after one of the Ravens OTA workouts. "From last year to this year, I see a big jump with his leadership, with him controlling the back end and just being that safety, controlling the calls. I just really like where I see him going."
Elam, the Ravens' first-round pick a year ago, started the last 15 games last season at free safety. He finished fourth on the team with 76 tackles and had one interception, three pass breakups and two fumble recoveries. With the departure of James Ihedigbo, Elam is expected to move to his more natural strong safety position.
Now a more confident, more experience player, Elam is also expected to take over Ihedigbo's leadership role at the back end. The Ravens did add a veteran safety in Darian Stewart, who played in St. Louis under new Ravens secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo. Stewart could contend for a starting job alongside Elam, but Elam will set the tone in the back.
Webb, for one, said Elam is already moving into that role nicely.
"When he is vocal, he's confident in what he's saying," Webb said. "If he makes the call, that's the call and you're going to play it. Last year, he wasn't like that. James kind of did it. He's taking that role now."
"I'm seeing him just taking control," Webb added. "It's just how he speaks. He speaks with confidence now, and you can just tell."