Matt Elam Injury Leaves Baltimore Ravens With Void At Safety


The Baltimore Ravens are fearful that they’ve lost a key piece to their defense when safety Matt Elam tore his biceps during a full contact practice on Sunday. Head Coach John Harbaugh doesn’t expect the 2013 first-round pick to return this season. 

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“I haven’t heard on the MRI yet, but I’m not real optimistic right now,” Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun. “I haven’t heard a final word, but it wasn’t very optimistic talking to the doctors. He was reaching, the receiver ran by him and kind of reached for him and caught him.”

It was only the second day that players were in pads and they’ve already been dealt their first blow. It’s a major setback for a player the Ravens were hopeful would turn it around in his third season in the NFL. The Florida product has been mostly a disappointment since being selected with the final pick in the first round of the 2013 draft.

General Manager Ozzie Newsome called out Elam this offseason by saying he needed to step his game up. His play last year was downright awful. Known as a strong tackler, he led the team with 16 missed tackles. The problem with Elam is he wants to blow everyone up rather than make the tackle. In a league that is full of shifty players and the rule changes that make it difficult to see the classic bone-crunching hits across the middle of the field, hard-hitting safeties are struggling to transition into the NFL.

His cover skills are even more concerning and teams would take advantage of him in space. Pro Football Focus named Elam as one of the worst safeties against the pass in football. It sounds as though his bad play in coverage is what got him injured too. He got beat by a receiver and tried to hold him to slow him down. In the process, his biceps was torn.

Despite all the negative criticism he has drawn, the Ravens were hopeful that his third season would be his breakout year. Defensive coordinator Dan Pees was very impressed with Elam’s play in organized team activities.

“This is the best camp he’s had,” Pees said. “Bar none, not even close.”

Now the Ravens are left with a hole in the secondary that might be tough to fill. Baltimore was likely to start the season with Will Hill and newcomer Kendrick Lewis as their starting safeties, but Elam was expected to play a major role for Pees’ defense. Now the Ravens will have to count on Quinton Porter, Brynden Trawick or the return of Terrence Brooks if they don’t search for outside help.

The crop of available free-agent safeties is a rather disappointing group. The biggest name on the market is former Raven and Tennessee Titan Bernard Pollard, but his play has diminished with age. Quintin Demps is a veteran player similar to Elam, but is better in coverage. The remaining group of free agents includes Thomas DeCoud, Laron Landry or Quinton Carter.

It’s been a long fall for Elam, whom many thought could be the heir apparent to future Hall of Famer Ed Reed. Elam, once considered a sure thing in the draft, will now have to battle back from a significant injury. He now needs to rehab his triceps and be hopeful to make an impact next season. It is a tough time for an injury because next season his $1.327 million base salary is not guaranteed and he could be cut without penalty.

Elam has become more of a liability than an asset, and it is kind of a blessing in disguise for the Ravens as they will not have the pressure to get Elam onto the field based on his draft selection. Pees can use the best players available – Hill and Lewis – without feeling like he needs to get Elam into the game. You do not wish injury on any player, but this injury might actually help the team in the end.

Was this the last time we saw Matt Elam in a Ravens jersey? Probably not. It’s unlikely that the team will give up on a first-round pick so quickly. However, it might be time to officially label Elam as a “bust.”

Get used to hearing the common cliche about the injury over the next few days. The next man needs to step up and the Ravens will move on. Let’s just hope the injury bug stays out of Baltimore again this season.

Next: Ravens' Player Profile: Kendrick Lewis

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