Anthony Levine Sr.: DeShon Elliott Knows Ravens Defense ‘Inside And Out’

Ravens hybrid defender and special teams ace Anthony Levine Sr. is confident that third-year safety DeShon Elliott is ready to fill the void left by Earl Thomas, and the 33-year-old Levine says he’s in the best shape of his career heading into his 11th NFL season.

Thomas was released Aug. 23 for “conduct that has adversely affected the Baltimore Ravens” following a training camp altercation with fellow safety Chuck Clark. Elliott is expected to get the first shot to start next to Clark in the defensive backfield. Elliott, a sixth-round pick out of Texas in 2018, has battled injuries since joining the Ravens.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Elliott suffered a fractured forearm during the preseason in 2018, forcing him to miss the entire season. Last year, he posted six tackles before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 6. Elliott played in 26 games for the Longhorns from 2015-2017, accumulating 105 tackles, nine interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Elliott, 23, is ready for a full-time role, according to Levine.

“Just watching him every day, watching his work ethic, the way he is in meetings, we kind of took him under our wing,” Levine said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 27. “Now I just feel like all we’re telling him to do is, ‘Hey man, just do what you’ve always done,’ and that’s go out there and have fun, fly around, make tackles and be the Joker.”

“He’s not afraid of contact,” Levine added. “He’s a ball-hawk. He’s got great instincts. He knows the defense inside and out. He can play multiple positions. He’s just a guy who can go out there and be whatever we need him to be.”

That means filling in for Thomas, a seven-time Pro Bowl safety who had worn out his welcome in Baltimore, and helping a Ravens team with Super Bowl aspirations. The Ravens, who finished with a regular-season record of 14-2 in 2019, were fourth in total defense (300.6 yards per game) and third in scoring defense (17.6 points).

A big part of that success defensively was Clark, who stepped in at safety after Tony Jefferson suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 5. Clark was mostly a special-teams contributor during his first two years in Baltimore, but the 2017 sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech took full advantage of the full-time opportunity that came his way after Jefferson’s injury.

Clark started 12 games last year, posting 73 tackles, one interception and one sack. Often praised by coaches and teammates for his football IQ, Clark wore the “green-dot” helmet and relayed play calls to the rest of the defense despite his relative inexperience.

Levine explained that he saw Clark’s rise coming by recalling a story from the 2018 season, when he hosted a radio show with Kirk McEwen on 98 Rock. When Clark was his guest one night, Levine told McEwen that Clark should be referred to as Chuck “The Future” Clark.

“Everybody in that restaurant, they thought it was funny,” Levine said. “But I’ve seen this in Chuck a long time ago when he first came into the building — the way he works, the way he studies, the way he asks questions, the way he is around me, the way he was around Eric Weddle. He just wanted to know, and he knew when he got his opportunity he was going to run with it. I’ve seen that. I’ve seen that a long time ago.”

The 5-foot-11, 207-pound Levine is familiar with Elliott and Clark through playing with each player on special teams. Levine, a safety by trade, is used as a linebacker in dime packages at times; last year, he played in 17 percent of the Ravens’ defensive snaps. But where Levine shines is on special teams; he played a team-high 71.6 percent of special teams snaps in 2019.

Ravens special teams units, typically excellent, struggled last year outside of kicker Justin Tucker. Levine will be among those looking to right the ship. During the COVID-altered offseason, Levine took it upon himself to get into the best shape of his career.

“One of my good friends took me to a spot called Total Sport Diagnostics. I completely changed my body,” Levine said. “I feel better than I’ve ever felt to be honest, better than I felt than when I came [into the league] in 2010. I’ve just been able to change my body and get my body right and get my body into tip-top shape. Being 33 and the guys see me moving around now, they’re surprised when I tell them I’m 33 years old.”

For more from Levine, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Luke Jackson

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