I woke up this morning, and upon checking my twitter feed, discovered a puzzling tweet from the usually reliable Aaron Wilson:
This is not the first time I have seen this rhetoric this off-season, but it is just as puzzling now as it was then. Will Hill has been a top rated safety for several years, despite his run-ins with the law while playing for the New York Giants. In 2014, Hill graded as the 6th highest safety despite a 6 game suspension, He was one of our best defensive players in 2015, on the field for 724 snaps in the 10 games he did play, but only graded negatively in 1 game. This follows a 2013 campaign in which he ranked as the 2nd best safety after Devin McCourty, even though he partnered in the back end with the limited Antrel Rolle, who was exposed upon Hill's exit from New York.
Elam on the other hand, was the least effective tackling safety in the NFL last year according to PFF, who had him as the 9th worst safety. So why would he be in competition for a starting spot with one of the best safeties in the whole league?
I believe that Will Hill should have the starting job locked up no matter how good Elam looks in camp. I also have a theory why Elam is taking snaps with the first team, but it still does not explain why Wilson thinks they are competing for a starting job. My theory is that the team feels Hill does not need as many reps, so it wants to give as many to Elam as possible in hopes of rehabilitating him into an NFL caliber player. Furthermore, splitting the reps gives us the benefit of developing additional chemistry between starting Free Safety Kendrick Lewis and both Hill and Elam. It would not shock me to see Hill at times playing a CB like role when we are playing a stud tight end like Jimmy Graham if Elam (or Brooks) can hold up on the back end. Jimmy Smith would be another possibility on Graham, but we like to keep him on one side of the field for the most part. So developing chemistry for an Elam-Lewis pairing is beneficial to us. Also, Hill is a free agent, and should he exceed our 'right player, right price' philosophy, we really need to know what we have in Elam before next off-season in order to make a proper valuation for Hill
Now my theory explains why they could be giving first team reps to Elam even if it is not a competition, but it does not explain why Aaron Wilson, generally the most insightful and reliable media member when it comes to the Ravens, is calling it a competition. Does he have inside information he has not shared? That is the big question!