Ravens smart to start James Ihedigbo

Baltimore Ravens first-round pick Matt Elam is athletic and physical. He's been picking up the defense fast in offseason workouts and training camp, according to the coaches.

So why isn't Elam starting immediately at safety for the Ravens? Because coach John Harbaugh is smart. You don't start a rookie in his first game if he's going against Peyton Manning, especially if he's in the secondary. It's like an unwritten rule in the NFL.

James Ihedigbo will start the season, but I expect Elam to be starting by the end of it. Right now, Ihedigbo has more experience (15 starts the past two seasons), which is vital when you're going against a quarterback who is constantly trying to find the weak link when he stands at the line. Ihedigbo also held up well when he started against Denver in December, making six tackles.

"James [Ihedigbo] has been running with the ‘Number Ones' (in the preseason), and he’ll continue to do that," Harbaugh said Friday. "Matt [rotates] in and plays a lot. He’ll continue to do that whether it’s in the regular package or the other packages that we have. Both of those guys are going to play a lot of football -- just like our corners."

Harbaugh also announced that Gino Gradkowski will replace Matt Birk as the team's starting center. He beat out A.Q. Shipley.