Safety Matt Elam caught the slings from the fans after another subpar performance in coverage Sunday. Except this time, his struggles came in a return appearance at the slot cornerback position. The second-year player had to take up the role in light of Lardarius Webb being out of action.
Elam was bombarded by veteran receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who snagged 5 catches for 80 yards. Cotchery was Cam Newton’s go-to target on third downs.
Unlike the Steelers, the Panthers actually threw the ball further downfield against Elam. If you remember, Elam held his own in the Pittsburgh game but he only had to defend the sticks.
Now, in fairness to Elam, his coverage really wasn’t all that bad. He had tight coverage on Cotchery on two of those plays to the right sideline, but he lacked the ball skills to locate the football. His reaction time was painfully slow for a cornerback.
Well, guess what? Elam isn’t a cornerback. He’s not a free safety, either, despite the Ravens’ insistence on using him at that position.
For as much flack as Elam has received for his play so far this season, the finger really needs to be pointed at defensive coordinator Dean Pees for consistently using Elam out of position.
Elam’s natural spot is strong safety. The plan this offseason was to enable Elam to play on that side.
Instead, just like last season, the team is playing Elam out of position out of necessity. Clearly, Darian Stewart isn’t working out as the center fielder. And with the injuries at corner, Elam has had to step up.
The team needs to figure out a way to get Elam back to more of a play-making, rover position. He is clearly more comfortable moving downhill or sideline-to-sideline.
Right now, Elam is covering way too much ground. Here’s hoping the defense gets a little “will power” soon with the return of Will Hill, giving Elam the chance to finally find a true home in the secondary….
It’s not too early to look ahead to the matchup against Indy. If Elam thought matching up against Cotchery was tough, what’s going to happen against either Hakeem Nicks, Reggie Wayne, or T.Y. Hilton? It’s a frightening thought.
That’s why the Ravens have to solve their nickel problem — as much as possible — this week. Obviously, the real solution would be getting a healthy Webb back. But that back just isn’t healthy enough.
It’s a wonder what happened to rookie safety Terrence Brooks as a slot nickel corner option. He got the chance to man that spot throughout the preseason and looked good. Unlike Elam, Brooks has played corner before, with the hips and range to hold up.
Regardless, this coming matchup against the Colts could be the back breaker for a secondary that’s had some rough moments, but has yet to be ripped apart from start to finish…
And the final word is…
He was loose as a run blocker on Sunday, leading a couple of key blocks to spring Justin Forsett off the right side. He was even able to get Luke Kuechly moving laterally.
If you’re going to give credit to the offensive line for driving a resurgent running game, you also have to give the fullback from Harvard love for opening up some holes.