Michael Huff has seven years of NFL experience, but has only been with the Ravens a few months.
With the departures of Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, it’s important for Huff to learn the Ravens’ system quickly. He is their most experienced safety, and the Ravens are counting on him to play well, and to mentor rookie safety Matt Elam.
Heading into Thursday’s preseason game against the Panthers, Huff says he is feeling more comfortable each week, after seven seasons with the Raiders. A strong performance by Huff on Thursday would help his comfort level heading into the regular season.
“This is really like our last dress rehearsal going into Denver,” Huff said following Tuesday’s practice. This first half is going to be like a real game for us. “When I first got here I could tell I was thinking about what I should do (on) this play. Now I’m getting more comfortable, just playing football.”
Signing with the Ravens as a free agent has been a huge change of atmosphere for Huff. The Raiders never made the playoffs during Huff’s seven seasons there. The Ravens have made the playoffs in each of the past five seasons.
Expectations in Baltimore are higher, but so is the pressure. Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin likes what he has seen from Huff in recent practices, as Huff, Elam, and James Ihedigbo fight for two starting safety spots.
“He’s a sharp guy, he’s a veteran, he knows how to work,” Austin said. “I like where he’s been the last week, in terms of making plays on the practice field.
“It’s a heck of a battle for the starting safety spot between those three guys. As always we’ll put the best people on the field. We make that determination probably after this weekend.”
Huff has had good plays and bad plays during the preseason, including missing a tackle on Falcons running back Steven Jackson. Austin said the Ravens were not worried about Huff’s tackling ability.
“Mike’s a solid tackler,” Austin said. “I know he missed one last week. A lot of guys have fallen off of Steven Jackson’s legs. That’s something we’ll continue to work on. I think he’ll be a solid tackler for us throughout the season.”
Taking charge in the secondary is an area where Huff has excelled. With Reed gone, somebody needs to.
“He’s not a big rah-rah guy,” Austin said. “But he commands respect because he carries himself like a professional.”
By Week 1, expect Huff to carry himself like a starter. However, expect Peyton Manning and the Broncos to test how comfortable Huff feels with his new team.