Matt Elam was easily the most outstanding rookie from last year’s class. It’s challenging for a rookie safety to take over as a starter so early in his career, but Elam handled the role well. Elam was critical of himself after the season ended, however, and he’s entered OTAs in excellent shape and with a refined knowledge of the playbook.
Elam broke down his new approach to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun:
I wasn't happy about [my rookie season] at all. That's why I approached the offseason the way I did, getting myself in shape, losing weight, getting myself fit and in shape physically and mentally to get myself right to take the next step.
That's why I feel so confident. I know the playbook a little more because I watched a lot of film. I feel like I had to take the next step, and that's what I'm trying to do.
The fruits of his labor are showing up on the practice field, according to head coach John Harbaugh, per Wilson:
He has really good control of the back end. It's pretty seamless. I haven't seen too many miscommunications, and I don't think any when Matt's been back there. He's really grown, so that's been a real plus.
More importantly, however, his teammates have more trust in him as a result of his self-confidence—as Lardarius Webb made clear, per Bo Smolka of CSNBaltimore.com:
The person who is just really growing is Matt Elam. 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.
When he is vocal, he's confident in what he's saying. 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. It's just how he speaks. He speaks with confidence now, and you can just tell.
Elam is an exceptionally talented safety, and his growth means he could be a game-changer at the position, but his maturity will also do wonders for the development of rookie Terrence Brooks.
The former first-round pick is locked into a starting role in the Ravens secondary, but this season it looks like he’ll be dictating the action instead of treading water in the backfield.