Michael Huff – At his best, a very good player

Street Talk Michael Huff – At his best, a very good player

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After my last look at a recent addition by the Ravens earned me a fair amount of backlash, I decided to dig a little deeper into a move I absolutely love. When the team brought Michael Huff on board, I liked the signing for two reasons: firstly, at this stage in their careers, I think he represents an upgrade over Ed Reed at free safety. And secondly, he’s good enough to cover at cornerback should the need arise through injury.

2011 was the last time he spent a full season at safety and, while he wasn’t playing at an elite level, he was more than solid – especially in coverage. Targeted by opposing quarterbacks 34 times, he allowed 22 receptions for 278 yards including two touchdowns. To counter that, he broke up two passes and picked off two more and, while he allowed an average of 12.6 yards per reception, he was beaten on plays of 20 or more yards just three times all season.

He spent all of 2012, with the exception of the first two games of the season, almost exclusively as the Raiders left cornerback, moving inside to the slot on only a handful of plays. As comes with the position, he was obviously targeted far more at cornerback than he was at safety but his numbers stack up pretty well regardless. From the 90 passes thrown into his coverage, Huff allowed 48 completions for 710 yards and six touchdowns. Matching his interception total from 2011, he also added nine pass breakups in 2012.

Digging a little deeper I took a look at some of Huff’s best plays from the past two seasons and here’s what I found of his play in various roles.

*DISCLAIMER* These are samples of positive plays. It’s fairly easy to dig into a player’s film and pick out five plays that make him look like an All-Pro, and five that make him look like the worst player in the league. It’s not meant to be a guide to how good Huff is, more a look at how good he can be, at his best.

Applying Pressure: 2011, Week 6, v Cleveland, 1st Q, 2nd-and-9, 14:14

Creeping up to the line of scrimmage from his free safety spot, just in time for the snap, Huff is in the backfield almost instantly. Browns quarterback Colt McCoy spots him right away and, despite Peyton Hillis trying to block low, Huff leaps over him as McCoy is forced to step to the side and get rid of the ball in a hurry.

Playing from the Slot: 2011, Week 6, v Cleveland, 1st Q, 2nd-and-12, 3:37

From the slot, Huff owns a short zone, breaking to the outside as soon as Greg Little (lined up in the slot) passes him going downfield. He reaches outside receiver Joshua Cribbs just as the ball does, getting his arm in the way to force the incompletion.

Breaking on the Ball: 2011, Week 6, v Cleveland, 2nd Q, 3rd-and-7, 1:19

Lined up in the slot again, though this time six yards back from the line of scrimmage, Huff breaks on a poorly thrown ball from McCoy to almost intercept the pass. The biggest problem for Huff here was that fellow new Ravens signing Rolando McClain also broke on the ball, with both men meeting in the middle.

Run Support: 2011, Week 11, @ Minnesota, 1st Q, 1st-and-Goal, 6:17

Here Huff creeps up to the line of scrimmage before the snap and plays contain as the Vikings look to get Percy Harvin out in space on the end around. He’s smart enough to not bite inside and is too quick for the fullback, making the tackle for loss.

Covering on the Outside: 2012, Week 4, @ Denver, 3rd Q, 2nd-and-10, 3:59

With the Broncos pressing for a touchdown, which they would get on the next play, Huff was lined up in man coverage against Eric Decker. The receiver was able to get the better of him initially, but Huff recovered to force the incompletion in the end zone.

Covering Deep: 2012, Week 10, @ Baltimore, 2nd Q, 2nd-and-4, 8:38

In a game I’m sure we all remember fondly. Huff had the difficult task of staying with the speedy Torrey Smith on a deep ball. Matching Smith stride for stride, Huff got a hand between him and the ball to force the incompletion in the end zone.

Like I said, that’s a sample of good plays he’s made and it’s just as easy to find poor plays of him or any player in the NFL, but it’s an example of how good he can be when he’s at his best and why I think he’ll be a great player for the Ravens.

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Gordon McGuinness

About Gordon McGuinness

Gordon was born and raised in Scotland and only happened upon football by chance when channel surfing one night. Like all good love stories, it was love at first sight. Living so far away, he only manages to make one game a season, catching the rest on television or online. Happy to admit that his love of football is an obsession, it lead him to Pro Football Focus where he contributes as an analyst and the writer of the Secret Superstar weekly feature. You can find him on twitter @PFF_Gordon

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