Following another disappointing season for 2013 first-round safety Matt Elam, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome didn't sugarcoat what he expects from the former University of Florida consensus All-American.
"Matt Elam has to be a better football player for us next year," Newsome said last month during a state-of-the-team news conference. "He has to be."
Perhaps one way Elam could upgrade his play next season is through mentoring and guidance provided by newly-acquired veteran free safety Kendrick Lewis.
Signed to a three-year contract, Lewis has trained with Elam in Florida. He said Tuesday during an introductory news conference that he plans to get in touch with Elam soon.
"I haven't spoken with him yet because I wanted to make sure everything was going through as far as the deal is sealed and me signed and everything else before I reach out to him," Lewis said. "He's a guy that if mentoring him is a thing that he needs and the coaching staff needs, I'm willing to do that. But as far as reaching out to him, I will because I'll probably be getting out there to Florida and training with those guys pretty soon."
Elam lost his starting job midway through the season despite being shifted from free safety back to his natural strong safety position during the offseason. Elam wound up starting 11 of 16 games, but finished with just 47 tackles, a half-sack, zero interceptions, five pass deflections and a forced fumble.
"I just want to improve my game and get better at small things and get consistent for the most part," Elam said at the end of the season. "I feel like I did well. I improved toward the end of the year. I got better at small things. It helped me stay consistent."
That wasn't exactly the case, though. Elam led the Ravens with 16 missed tackles during the regular season. And Elam allowed New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola to twist out of his grasp for a touchdown during the Ravens' AFC divisional round loss.
Elam had 154 tackles, 22 for loss, and six interceptions during his final two seasons of college. He had 78 tackles, 11 for losses and four interceptions as a junior before declaring early for the draft.
Elam was the lowest-graded player on the Ravens' defense and the 78th-ranked safety in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Elam allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 38 of 53 passes thrown in his direction (71.7 percent) for 500 yards and three touchdowns.
During the Ravens' wild-card playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Elam did have an encouraging game as he contributed a tackle, intercepted a pass on a two-point conversion and was sounder in coverage than usual.
At the end of the season, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he could see some strides from Elam despite the results.
"His practice production and effort did improve," Harbaugh said. "And he's never done a bad job with that. But I think he was more consistent over the last six or seven weeks than he had been at any time since he'd been here before. He really put a lot of effort into it and did improve as a player because of that."