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Ravens say they still consider Matt Elam a starter even though he didn't start Sunday

Ravens safety Matt Elam.
Ravens safety Matt Elam. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

The Ravens say they still consider safety Matt Elam to be a starter, even though his status changed dramatically Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

Elam wasn't on the field for the first snap for the first time since he became a starter last season. The 2013 first-round draft pick also played a career-low 15 snaps and had one tackle during the 21-7 win.

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With the emergence of Will Hill, Elam's playing time has been reduced. He now shares time behind veteran Darian Stewart. Rookie Terrence Brooks played four more snaps than Elam did against the Titans.

Elam is tied for fourth in the NFL among all defensive backs with a dozen missed tackles this season.

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"To me, the situation with Matt is everybody is reading a little more into it than we certainly are. He's a starting safety for us, they all are," Pees said. "We need to find guys and what they do best and put them into their role, and every week that role could change. He could play 40 snaps one week and 15 the next.

"A lot of it is based on what the game plan is going in against a certain team on offense, a certain quarterback, how much we're going to play different packages. I think we're blessed to have the safeties we have. I wouldn't read too much into the number of plays that Matt got."

Elam has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 17 of 25 passes thrown in his direction for 277 yards and one touchdown for an opposing quarterback rating of 118.3 this season.

A consensus All-American at Florida where he played for former Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin, Elam is the younger brother of former NFL safety Abram Elam. Abram Elam played for Pees at Kent State.

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Shifted to his natural strong safety position this season after lining up at free safety as a rookie, Elam has 32 tackles and three pass deflections with no interceptions and one forced fumble.

Elam has declined recent interview requests, including Sunday after the game.

The Ravens are utilizing Elam in their nickel package as a "penny nickel." In that defense, Elam is deployed as a run-stopper. He's also been used as a blitzer and had three quarterback hits against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"We have a bunch of starting safeties," secondary coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "There is not one above the other. Matt is in that same situation.  We've tried to get Matt into positions where he excels. For him, that's really down close to the line of scrimmage. So, he plays a little more nickel. I'll tell you what I've been impressed with, he's a better cover guy in that spot than what I thought.

"His speed gives us some things there at nickel and certainly being a physical guy. They're not always going to throw the ball, they're going to run it as well. So, having Matt down there closer to the action helps us."

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