THE SCOUT’S VIEW: Defensive Secondary

Battle Plans THE SCOUT’S VIEW: Defensive Secondary

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In a little over a month, the 2008 NFL draft will take place. Thirty-two franchises will select players to fill out their rosters, hoping that they have pieced together a special draft class.
 
Over the coming weeks, players will be compared to each other, position-by-position. Each team will have a different assessment of these former collegiate standouts. The difference in opinion between the scouts and personnel managers leads to the respective classes being formed. Grabbing the wrong players will lead to a poor class being formed, and in turn, could lead to a team not being successful.
 
The selection of players is an inexact science that is almost impossible to quantify. The scientific process must be exact, though.
 
For instance, when the Indianapolis Colts had the rare opportunity to select No.1 in 1998, they opted to pick Peyton Manning instead of Ryan Leaf. General manager Bill Polian and his staff’s ability to discern the critical differences between the two players led to his club making the right selection.
The question is, “What are the factors that these front office directors consider before they make their draft choices?”
 
Profootball24x7 will break down the skills and characteristics that a potential pro prospect must possess in order to succeed at the next level. Today we will review the secondary:

Cornerback

·        Diagnostic skills: In the NFL, it is critical for corners to react precisely, depending on what the offense presents on each given play. A corner must understand when it is a run or pass, in order to defend the play accordingly. In turn, a corner must have the ability to recognize the trajectory of a pass, in order to position his body properly to make a play on the ball. He must also understand what type of route he is defending. Essentially, a corner has to make the right decision, at the right time, or else the entire pass defense may come apart at the seams.
 
·        Fluid hips: A cornerback can be as fast and big as he wants to be, but if he is unable to contort his body on the fly in order to adjust to a receiver’s movements, he will have no chance to cover anyone. It is critical that a cover corner has the ability to twist his hips seamlessly when transitioning out of his back pedal. The smooth and steady movers can stay stride for stride with most wideouts.
 
·        Run defense: Defending the run is perhaps the most underrated skill that a corner must possess. Unless a defensive back is a gifted cover corner, he will not be able to survive unless he is a willing tackler, especially when defending the run. At the pro level, a corner must be physical and use proper tackling technique to bring down a ball carrier. A defense that has corners who tackle will always be a cut above the rest.
 
 
Safety
 
·        Tackling ability: There is no solid safety in the NFL who is not a sure tackler. If a safety is a poor tackler, a defense will give up big plays, whether against the run or the pass. For a safety, executing proper tackling technique is a different process than for a cornerback. A safety will fly around from all over the place to defend a play, so he must always take the right angle to get to the ball carrier.
 
·        Lateral movement: A safety must be able to move well from sideline-to-sideline. Much like an inside linebacker, the safety will need to track down a play from the middle, whether it is from the left or right side of the deep portion of the secondary. Again, for a safety, it is all about taking the right angle to the ball, so when a safety does move laterally to flag down a play, he will need to take an exact path to get to where he needs to be.
 
·        Speed: Although a lot of safeties’ movements are not in a straight line, there are enough instances when a safety has to move uphill or downhill, so it is crucial that a defensive back has good football speed. There is a difference between timed speed and football speed. A safety, with pads on, must possess the catch up speed to catch a receiver from behind if a corner loses that receiver underneath. In turn, a safety must also be able to break quickly downhill to stop a running back.
 
Photos by Sabina Moran

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Dev Panchwagh

About Dev Panchwagh

Dev Panchwagh is a versatile analyst who breaks down the Xs and Os of the game and has been a columnist/analyst for Ravens24x7.com since the summer of 2004. In his regular season column Battle Plans, Dev highlights the Ravens' keys to success against each upcoming opponent. Dev started modestly as a sports journalist, but his contributions to sports talk radio were noticed, leading to duties as a regular columnist for the Scouts.com network before joining RSR.  It would be very difficult to find his rare combination of youthfulness, knowledge and insight in all facets of football anywhere else.  Fortunately, Dev brings it here each and every week.  More from Dev Panchwagh

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