Matt Elam in slot adds size, depth to defense, Harbaugh says

September 15, 2014|By Jon Meoli | The Baltimore Sun

Ravens coach John Harbaugh on Monday explained the decision to slot second-year safety Matt Elam in at the nickel cornerback slot in Thursday's 26-6 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, which he said allows the team to take advantage of its safety depth and added a run nickel package to its future plans.

“We’re able to do it because Matt Elam can do it,” Harbaugh said Monday. “He’s done a great job of learning how to play in the slot, and that’s not an easy thing to do, especially for a safety. That gives us some versatility. We can play a corner in there or we can play a safety in there.”

Elam playing inside created a space for fifth-year safety Jeromy Miles, who played 50 of 60 snaps against the Steelers after not taking a defensive snap against the Cincinnati Bengals last week.

“Terrence Brooks has played in there too, so he’s a guy who can [play nickel],” Harbaugh said. “Plus, it gets Jeromy Miles on the field, and eventually it gets Brynden Trawick on the field. So we’ve got a lot of good safeties. We’re blessed with safety depth, so it’s not a bad thing to get those guys on the field.”

Harbaugh said Elam is a good fit inside because of his tackling abilities, giving the team more size if it removes a linebacker for an extra defensive back for passing situations. Since many teams play in three-receiver sets, the Ravens will likely need their nickel package plenty going forward, and the composition of it is in flux with cornerback Lardarius Webb unable to get on the field with a back injury, and cornerback Asa Jackson dealing with a concussion.

“A guy like Matt being in there gives you a little run nickel package because he’ll run around and hit you and tackle you,” Harbaugh said. “He’ll be the first to tell you he tackled better in the second half than he did the first half, but he’s a good tackler.

"He keeps his feet on the ground, he keeps his eyes up, runs through tackles. He’ll make those tackles, so he’s got to continue to work on that, which he did in the second half. It builds our defense package in good ways because we’ve got a guy in there that can really defend the run too.”

The Ravens held Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to 217 yards while completing 22 of 37 passes without a touchdown and with one interception in the passing game, and kept the Steelers under 100 yards rushing.

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