In the NFL, pressure is inevitable. Over the past 10 days CSNBaltimore.com has been ranking the top 10 Ravens who are under pressure heading into training camp. We've finally reached No. 1.
Why the pressure is on:
When the general manager publicly calls you out, you better believe the pressure is on. And Ozzie Newsome could not have been more direct when he declared at the "State of the Ravens" news conference: "Matt Elam has to be a better football player for us next year. He has to be." The Ravens have seen two years worth of uneven play from their 2013 first-round draft pick, and it's pretty clear they are tired of that, and want and expect more from him.
What Elam needs to do:
For starters, tackle. As a safety with a reputation for hitting, Elam's poor tackling was perhaps his most glaring weakness last year. According to Pro Football Focus, Elam finished with a team-high 16 missed tackles despite playing only about 60 percent of the snaps. In Elam's defense, he has bounced around from free safety to strong safety and even played some nickel back as the Ravens searched for answers in the secondary. Keeping him in one role would help. But he also needs to help himself. He needs to show better instincts and awareness -- failing to touch a runner down as if they are playing college rules is inexcusable.
"By all accounts, Elam returned this spring motivated and focused. That's a good start. The next test comes when the pads come on and the hitting starts. Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees praised Elam during OTAs, saying Elam had the "best camp he’s had, bar none. Not even close."
Sounds as if Newsome's message got through loud and clear.