The Baltimore Ravens finished second in total defense in 2020. They are poised to have one of the NFL’s elite defenses yet again in 2021. One of the biggest stories to watch for this unit is the development of the young safeties. Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott are coming into their own. The tandem is entering its second season together as starters. If both players show improvement in 2021, this secondary could be the best in team history.
Chuck Clark is one of the most instinctive players on the roster
The Baltimore Ravens drafted Chuck Clark in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Virginia Tech. Clark’s best season with the Hokies came as a junior. He racked 102 total tackles, 60 of which were solo. He ranked No. 9 in the ACC in total tackles.
Entering the draft, many regarded Clark as a strong tackler capable of shedding blocks and delivering big hits in the run game. Pro Football Focus said he “Identifies concepts instinctively and possesses a high football IQ. Their NFL comparison for Clark was Adrian Amos, which makes perfect sense.
The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native has paid his dues and worked his way up the defensive depth chart. In his first two seasons, Clark was more of a rotational piece. However, he became known for making big plays on special teams. He played behind Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson but made two starts in 2018.
Weddle left for Los Angeles before the 2020 season, creating an opportunity for Clark. He started 12 games next to All-Pro safety Earl Thomas.
Clark has recorded 169 tackles, four forced fumbles, and 2.5 sacks over the past two seasons combined. Ravens players and coaches rave about Clark, and he’s only 26 years old.
DeShon Eliott brings the physicality the Ravens are known for
Elliott plays like one of the hungriest players on the Ravens defense whenever he steps on the field. The Ravens drafted him in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Texas.
Elliott put together a solid three seasons with the Longhorns. In 26 starts, he recorded 105 total tackles, nine interceptions, and 13 pass defenses. He returned two interceptions for touchdowns as a junior, which was the second-most in the country. Elliott was named a Consensus All-American in 2017.
The Dallas, Texas native received a grade of 79.5 from Pro Football Focus before the draft. He appeared in six games as a rookie but made a minimal impact. In year two, Elliott took the next step.
The former Longhorns standout started all 16 regular season games for the Ravens. He registered 80 combined tackles, four pass defenses, and 2.5 sacks. Elliott’s best moments occurred when he was delivering punishing blows to opposing players.
The 24-year-old was a ballhawk in college but has yet to record an interception in Baltimore. As he grows more comfortable, that number is sure to rise.
The Ravens secondary is already one of the best in football
The Baltimore Ravens boast one of the league’s deepest secondaries. They are led by cornerbacks Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Jimmy Smith. Peters and Humphrey are All-Pro corners and two of the biggest ball-hawks in the NFL. Between the two of them, they have forced 25 turnovers over the past two seasons.
The Ravens have the utmost confidence in their two young safeties as well. Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott appear ready to take their respective games to another level in the 2021 season.
Head coach John Harbaugh has been singing the duo’s praises in the offseason. “I think if you watch them just moving-around wise, they’re both moving really well, which is credit to them, and the work they’ve put in,” said Harbaugh. “They understand how to make one thing look like something else and do it in a really natural way that is really hard for the quarterback to identify.”
PFF ranked the Ravens as the No. 2 secondary in the NFL heading into 2021, behind only the Denver Broncos. There are high expectations for this defense, especially in the secondary. Elliott and Clark are both young and have room to grow. They’re playing alongside some of the best in the business as well.
Baltimore has been home to several talented defensive backs, including Chris McAllister and Hall of Famer Ed Reed. However, as a unit, this could be the best secondary in Ravens history.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference