That was one of the clearer takeaways from Ozzie Newsome's season-ending press conference this week, where he challenged the 2013 first-round pick to be a better player after a dismal 2014.
"Matt Elam has to be a better football player for us next year," Newsome said, via CSN Baltimore on Tuesday. "He has to be."
Anyone is going to pale in comparison to Ed Reed, who left Baltimore just a few months before Elam was drafted and plugged into the starting lineup.
But in Elam's case, the issue has been getting up to replacement level.
In 2014, Pro Football Focus viewed him as the 78th best safety in the NFL, though he did rank in the top 25 for missed tackles, percentage of passes caught in his coverage area and opposing NFL quarterback rating (128.4).
Though objective, the PFF ratings provide a glimpse into some of the nagging criticisms that have followed Elam throughout his first two seasons. It probably doesn't help that last year's first-round pick, C.J. Mosley, made the Pro Bowl right out of the gate.
But within Baltimore's defense, Elam still has plenty of time to develop and grow. Newsome isn't discarding him by any stretch and neither should the same people who touted him as a draft-day steal back in 2013.
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