Elam’s growth underlies a more pressing question

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Matt Zenitz published a piece with the Capital Gazette that focuses on Matt Elam’s growth from his rookie season to the present day.  In it, he is praised heavily for his maturation on the football field — namely with his communication and assignment understanding.  Lardarius Webb had this to say about Elam:

“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.

“I’m seeing him just taking control – just taking control with communicating with the linebackers and with me.  Last year, I was a veteran, so I guess he didn’t communicate with me like he wanted to. Now, if he says it, it’s what he says. We play what he says. It’s just how he speaks. He speaks with confidence now, and you can just tell.”

But beneath all of this praise is an unmentioned, and widely uncovered topic: if the Ravens are so aware of the growing pains that Elam experienced, why do they appear comfortable starting rookie Terrence Brooks?

Granted, these are case-by-case situations, but Elam was one of the premier safeties in last year’s draft by all accounts, and he still experienced this stretch of discomfort.  Why should the third rounder, Brooks, find more success?  Even though the team claims he was a top-40 player on their board, are there not concerns that the step up in competition will result in some undesirable results?

One thing that is working in Brooks’s favor when compared to Elam’s rookie season is the role he will be filling.

While Elam was asked to play out of his natural position for much of last season due to his pairing with the similar James Ihedigbo, Brooks will presumably be allowed to stay back in coverage mostly and use his athleticism to react.  However, Brooks showed a tendency to be a bit too aggressive at times with the Seminoles, so there is a bit of worry on this end about whether or not he will be easily baited by professional quarterbacks.

Whatever the outcome, if the Ravens are to start Brooks across from Elam, they better hope that Elam’s growth in the communication realm is what they’re saying it is.  For all the excitement around the selection of Terrence Brooks in May’s draft, I for one am expecting a similarly slow start to his career.  I hope I’m wrong, and that his assimilation into the defense doesn’t come at the cost of productivity from the Ravens secondary.

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