SAN ANTONIO -- One of the many ways a scout evaluates players is through film study. It is the best way to get a true read on the ability of player and how he might fit into your scheme if you were managing to try and secure his services.
This summer I had the opportunity to sit down and watch Michael Huff, Abram Elam, Eric Weddle and Dawan Landry, all safeties that would be unrestricted free agents in the coming year once the lockout had ended.
My study of Huff and Weddle was really to try to catch me up to speed because the Raiders and Chargers were opponents of the Cowboys in 2009. The study of Elam and Landry was not as fresh in my eyes because I had not seen them play in a while.
Huff and Weddle were more athletic than either Elam or Landry. The study was really of two different groups of players. Huff and Weddle were more free safety types where Elam and Landry were more “box” or near line of scrimmage types.
It was not that you didn’t see you didn’t see Elam or Landry playing deep. It was just the way that both of the players moved more like strong safeties than free safeties.
The scheme that Rob Ryan put Elam in while at Cleveland is exactly what we are seeing on a daily basis here at training camp now. Ryan’s safeties are interchangeable, meaning that the free safety can play down in the box and the strong can line up deep, so in this scheme you really have safeties that are responsible for both areas on the defense.
In studying the New England and New Orleans games, it was evident that Elam was responsible for what was happening on the back end with the secondary because of the exotic looks that Ryan was trying to give Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
When Ryan would blitz, he would lock his secondary up in man coverage and use Elam floating in the middle of the field. It was Elam’s job to react to the ball once it left the quarterback’s hand and he was able to complete his job successfully. Elam was also asked to play man coverage in the scheme and did not appear to be a total liability with the ball getting out quickly because of the pressure that was being applied.
Elam is not a fluid moving player like Huff or Weddle on tape, but in visiting with my Browns sources, to a man they couldn’t say enough good things about the intelligence of the player, how well he fit as a teammate and how much faith Ryan had in him. Those same scouts also went on to say that Elam is not the quickest or fastest player at safety -- which can hurt him closing angles in space or in overall coverage -- but once he got to the ball he was going to be successful in making something positive happen.
It’s important to remember that coaches will always take the known over the unknown when coaching players. To Ryan, Elam is a known player. When putting in a new defense, you need players that you can trust.