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Three former SEC players named rookie standouts in NFL OTAs

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The offseason continues to plow through the dog days of summer. Thankfully, NFL teams have been holding offseason organized team activities, where three former SEC players are leaving big impressions on coaches, teammates and beat writers.

Matt Elam, Baltimore Ravens (Florida)

Former Florida safety and first-round pick Matt Elam is picking things up quickly in Ravens’ camp. With safety Ed Reed gone to Houston, Elam has a chance to win a starting job as a rookie. Ravens’ secondary coach Teryl Austin, who used to be Florida’s defensive coordinator, said Elam is going to be a big player for the Ravens soon, via Baltimore Sun.

“[He’s] going through the usual changes that a rookie goes through, but he’s smart,” said Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin. “He’s tough, he’s fast, he gets football, and I think he is going to be a fine player for us soon.”

Fellow defensive back Corey Graham said Elam is picking things up quickly, too.

“He’s picking things up very fast,” Graham said. “He’s at safety, they are putting him in the dollar package, he’s coming down playing nickel. When you have the ability to play all those positions, that’s pretty impressive. You don’t see that much, especially in the first couple of months of being on the team.”

Elam expects to be busy as a rookie in Baltimore.

Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals (LSU)

The much-maligned and questioned former LSU DB Tyrann Mathieu is making an instant splash in NFL OTAs. Mathieu is “buzzing around plays” and has been working with the first-team defense in the Nickel package. He has also impressed the coaching staff and players at safety. Carson Palmer compared Mathieu to one of the NFL greats, via NFL.com.

“He reminds (me) of Troy Polamalu with his closing speed,” said Carson Palmer. “He might not be the fastest guy out there, but he can change directions and get to the ball really fast, like Troy.”

Head coach Bruce Arians said Mathieu picks up things quickly, via Fox Sports Arizona.

“He gets thing the first time the coaches tell it to him,” Arians said. “He’s got natural instincts to play football. I’m really happy for him. He’s playing really well.”

Mathieu will see early playing time in Arizona. Here’s to hoping he stays clean.

DJ Swearinger, Houston Texans (South Carolina)

The former No. 57 overall pick is making major strikes in offseason OTAs. DJ Swearinger was one of the more underrated players for the Gamecocks, but he brought the wood on every hit and gave the defense an identity and a leader.

Texans’ head coach Gary Kubiak has been pleasantly surprised with Swearinger while normal starter Ed Reed remains out. Kubiak describes what Swearinger has brought to the defense in two weeks, via Houston Texans.

“Confidence,” Kubiak said. “He’s got a ton of confidence. He just walks out here like he belongs, and he does. He’s got a ton of ability. He’s a smart player. When the ball is close to him, he’s going to make the play. That’s the difference between a good player and a great player in this league is being in the right spot and making big plays when you get there. He’s got a chance to make those plays.”

Texans DB Vance Joseph also had great things to say about Swearinger.

“Obviously, he’s a guy who’s got great talent, great instincts, got some ball skills to make plays on the ball,” Joseph said. “He’s also a very, very smart guy. He’s picked the system up very quickly, and he’s playing well for a rookie. You don’t know until you coach guys how smart they are, but his football IQ’s very high.”

When Ed Reed returns, Swearinger is expected to be the third-team safety, but with the moves he’s making in offseason OTAs, Swearinger may earn himself some playing time as a rookie.

Photo Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports





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