When the Ravens selected Texas safety DeShon Elliott in the sixth round of the draft last season, many believed they were getting a steal. Elliott was a productive safety in his three years with the Longhorns and posted an impressive 8.5 tackles for loss and six interceptions in his junior campaign.
In the 2018-19 preseason, albeit in relatively limited action, we saw flashes of this same player. Elliott posted seven tackles and both forced and recovered a fumble. He looked the part of a versatile, rangy safety with a nose for the ball.
Unfortunately, we never got to see these skills on display in the regular season. Elliott suffered a broken forearm and was place on injured reserve after undergoing surgery. The odds of him playing a significant role with Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle ahead of him on the depth chart were low but nevertheless, it was an unfortunate injury.
Now, heading into his sophomore season, Elliott is looking spry and healthy. He’s been turning heads in OTA’s and minicamp as a standout player on defense. Elliott has made a handful of impressive interceptions and pass defenses.
OKAY @OfficialShon_4 pic.twitter.com/4TLmyLQZI2— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 12, 2019
Elliott’s play has earned him high praise from fellow Texas alum Earl Thomas:
"@OfficialShon_4 has been making plays left and right. I think it's a Texas thing." @Earl_Thomas pic.twitter.com/sJiiDuBslz— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) June 13, 2019
Any time a player of Thomas’ pedigree and experience says things like this and takes notice of your play, it’s certainly noteworthy. Head coach John Harbaugh also sung Elliott’s praises in a recent press conference after practice.
“He covers a lot of ground,” said Harbaugh. “Knows where he is, plays really fast, works really hard. He’s going to make a mark.”
Prior to free agency, I touched on the potential of Elliott replacing Weddle in the secondary. That was before the Ravens signed Thomas, however, and with him and Jefferson holding down both starting spots, Elliott’s chances as a starting spot are essentially nonexistent.
With that being said, he may force his way onto the field in some fashion. Elliott is a rare safety breed in today’s NFL, as he can thrive in different places on the field. Whereas many safeties play a defined role and have a specific skill set, Elliott is rangy and covers enough ground to thrive in pass coverage, while also possessing the tackling and hitting skills to play in the box.
Don’t be surprised to see defensive packages throughout the season that feature Thomas, Jefferson, and Elliott on the field at the same time. Looking ahead to the future, Elliott could be the long-term replacement for Jefferson in the secondary, potentially as soon as next season.
All signs point to Jefferson having a big upcoming season but after 2019-20, he’ll be entering the final year of his contract with a cap hit north of $11 million. DeCosta could certainly explore the idea of getting out of his contract knowing the uber-talented Elliott is waiting in the wings as a younger, cheaper option.
We’ll have to see if Elliott’s impressive spring showing continues when the pads come on in roughly a month. He’ll have more opportunities to prove himself worthy of snaps during training camp and into the preseason. They won’t be easy to come by given Baltimore’s depth and talent in the secondary.
However, based on what we’ve seen thus far in the offseason, somewhat of a breakout season could be in the works for the “The Joker”. The DeShon Elliott hype train is coming fast, and it’s best to hop on now or get run over in the near-future.