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Ronald Darby coverage breakdown

26 April 2015 - 01:30 PM



Ronald Darby is a cornerback prospect that played his college ball at Florida State. He is considered to be a top 5 player at his position, and should come off the board in the 1st or 2nd round. Darby is very athletic and displayed this at the combine with a 4.3 forty-yard dash. He is someone the panthers are interested in, as he has had workouts with the team, and came to Charlotte on a visit.


Darby is mostly known as the other corner on that FSU team (PJ Williams gets more publicity and fanfare). So I took a closer look at Darby, by watching 6 games to determine what types of coverage’s he played in, and the success rate quarterbacks had throwing at him. Pre snap, I would determine if he were the field corner, or boundary corner. The field corner is the corner who plays to the wide side of the field, while the other corner plays the opposite side, closer to the sideline.  In most defenses, the best corner plays the boundary or short side.

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I would also see if he played on the outside, or inside at the nickel position. I also charted how many times Darby was in man coverage or zone coverage’s. The different coverage’s would get charted, and if the quarterback targeted him or zone would be charted as well. If the receiver catches the ball on him, in man or in his zone, that was charted.  Darby broke the pass up; he would get credited with a PBU (pass break up). INT is self explanatory, and was another category charted. Quarterback success percentage is when the pass is completed on Darby, and the yards made on those catches would be the average per catch.


Here is the chart.

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Pre snap things, Darby played mostly field corner compared to boundary.  Darby played 146 snaps at field corner, compared to 13 at the boundary spot.  Darby also played all 159 snaps on the outside, and none in the slot or nickel positions.


Darby was in man coverage for most of his snaps, especially in press coverage. He played 61 snaps in press coverage, which is 38% of his snaps. Quarterbacks targeted Darby in press coverage 11 times, and completed 4 passes. That gives opposing quarterbacks a 36% success rating while Darby was in press-man coverage. Those 4 catches went for around 85 yards total, and an average of 21 yards per catch.


Darby was in zone coverage’s for 34 snaps. Darby played in cover 3 or a deep 3rd of the field on 18 snaps. He played the flat, or cover 2 on 16 snaps. In cover 3, Darby was only targeted 1 time, for an incompletion. He was targeted 3 times in cover 2, with 1 completion coming on a swing out pass to the running back. He quickly planted, broke up and tackled the running back for a 3-yard loss.


He does need to work on his off man coverage skills. Darby was in off man coverage on 15 plays, and targeted twice by quarterbacks. Those 2 targets, turned into completions for the quarterback, and one turning into a touchdown by Phillip Dorsett in the Miami game.

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At times, Darby does not trust his technique and athleticism. This gets him in trouble especially in off man, like in the above pictures.  Know your cushion limits, and be patient. Darby takes two steps into his back pedal, and he has already opened up his hips, Because Dorsett has killed his cushion.  He did not back pedal much at FSU, so this something else he would have to work on coming to the pro level.  


Another thing I noticed was, Darby was not targeted as much.  In 6 games, I only counted 20 over targets. Out of those 20 targets, 7 balls were actually caught for completions. That gave opposing quarterbacks a 35% completion percentage verses him. He also seems to struggle with playing the ball, and catching. Dropped a sure pick-6, because he fought the ball away instead of looking it into his hands, and making the catch. 

Devin Smith route tree breakdown

23 April 2015 - 01:10 PM



Part 2 of the route breakdown, I took a look at Devin Smith, wide receiver from Ohio St. Smith is a speedster, who had an average of 28 yards per reception while playing in Urban Meyers spread attacking system. If you have been following the off season (Senior Bowl, Combine, draft), everyone knows most of his routes were vertical attacking routes.  So deeper routes on the tree dominated, the short to intermediate routes, and I think that was all schemed based.


I watched 8 games, from 2013 and 2014 years to get a look at what routes Smith ran (I applaud all you OSU fans, who had to watch Braxton Miller play quarterback as well. You guys are the real MVP).  Remember, whether he got the ball or not was really irrelevant in this breakdown, because I was mainly wanting to see what types of routes he was asked to run, and how much success or wins did he accomplish on each one.


A win occurs when Smith gets any type of separation, and makes himself an open target for his quarterback. This has to occur in man coverage, as well as in zone coverage. He does not have to receive the ball in order to win the play, but simply become open for the quarterback.  Smith can also win a play if he gets a pass interference called on the defender guarding him, and this happened several times. Some wins came from back shoulder passes, that was created by the Quarterback ball placement, but also by Smith and his ability to fend defenders away from the ball, or his stem in his route.


The chart.

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In 8 games, I was surprised to see Smith only ran 76 routes.  A lot of people figure, a spread system is all about passing the ball 100x a game. Under Meyer, Ohio St still wants to run and pound the ball down you throats. OSU runs plenty of traps, powers, ISO, dives, and counters, as well as use the zone runs to have potent rushing attack. Smith lined up in the slot on 18 snaps, and outside at both flanker and split-end on 177 snaps. He did have some double catches, but only dropped 2 catching balls in 8 games. One drop occurred when he took his eyes off the ball before tucking it in, and securing it.


The curl was the route Smith ran the most. He ran a curl on 23 plays, which made up 30% of his routes. He also won on 18 of those snaps, giving smith a win percentage of 78% on the curl route. He would make defensive backs respect his speed by exploding of the LOS, and make a sudden stop coming back to the quarterback. He does not a “ beat the drum” when running routes, to tip of when he is breaking in his route.


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Smith is lined up to the bottom, on the LOS. the DB is playing 8 yards off.


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Worried about Smith going past him, the DB is already beginning to zone turn and opening his hips. Smith is starting to come out of his curl route with a 6 yard separation.


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Smith curls back to the QB, and makes himself available for the pass. The DB is no longer in the TV frame.


The second most ran route by Smith was the fly/fade or 9-route category. Smith ran a route from this category on 20 plays, which equaled 26% of the routes he ran. His 70% win percentage shows he is at best running deep and getting vertical up the field. Smith has the speed, and body control to dominate in the vertical game.  He did run 9 clear outs, where the primary receiver ran right underneath where Smith just ran (The quarterback literally would watch 1 read the entire play and attempt to hit that read, and no other). He can stack a defensive back and gain separation by placing his body directly in front of the DB, which will force the DB to play out of position (catch up), or run him over for PI call. Here is an example vs. Michigan St.

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Press man coverage look at pre snap.

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Press, and bail coverage 3??? Smith starts his route inside of the numbers and slowly gets more wide, the further into the route. This gives the QB more room to get an accurate ball deep, and to the outside so the DB cannot make the play.


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He also attacks the defensive back feet forcing them to open up their hips, with little room to turn and run. By the time defensive back opens up their hips, Smith explodes out of his break to gain more separation.

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He adjusts to the ball rather well. Has outstanding body control, and can attack the ball at its high point.

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In the small sample size of short to intermediate routes Smith ran, he won on numerous occasions. Smith won on 80% of the digs/ drags routes he ran. He ran 3 screens, but was not targeted on any of them. I would like to see him get more opportunities in these areas, because he does have very good speed, and showed good COD by running a 6.8 3 cone drill at his pro day.

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Smith has had conversations with the panther’s coaches, has been worked out by the panthers, and has (or had) a visit with the panthers. I do believe he is on the panther’s radar. Ronald Darby is the next.

A closer look at Todd Gurley

19 April 2015 - 01:34 PM



With the recent news of Todd Gurley knee checking out at the post combine medical recheck, I decided to take a closer look at the big polarizing back. Gurley is from Tarboro, North Carolina, a small town in the eastern part of the state. He went on to attend the University of Georgia.


First thing you notice about Gurley is his size. At the combine, he weighed in at 222 pounds on a 6’1 frame. He plays up to this size. In games, he consistently runs through defenders. His weight is proportioned out well through out his body. He has a thick and muscular lower body, as well as a chiseled up upper body.  He runs with great power, and balance. The gif below shows some of this power and balance. 




His 10-inch hands help him with ball security and catching the ball out the backfield. In 6 games I watched (2013 and 2014), Gurley did not drop one ball thrown to him from out the backfield. Gurley caught balls on screens, in the flat, on drags across the middle, curls in the middle as check downs. He also only fumbled one time in those games.


Guys Gurley size, should not move like he does. Gurley has a great amount of burst and acceleration once he hits a hole or sees any green in front of him. He gets up to full speed really fast, and will leave defenders behind him. I did not see him get caught from behind, and once he is up to full speed, nobody is taking him down. He has also taken several kick off returns back for touchdowns. Here vs. Clemson in 2013, he got a crease following his fullback on an off tackle run. He explodes through the hole for a huge touchdown run. The backside defensive back did have the pursuit angle to make the play, but could not because of the speed and power Gurley runs with.



Another important aspects of Gurley’s game are patience, and vision. These traits are something all good running backs possess (ex. Le’Veon Bell). A running back with patience and vision puts a lot of stress on a defense. A defender must be sound to their technique and read the correct keys, or a back will gain a lot of yards on them. Gurley has both and does a good job at portraying these traits. Again vs. Clemson 2013, Gurley shows these traits on this play.


Georgia comes out in twins left I formation, pro set, with the tight end lined up on the right side. Clemson lines up in an even man front. A 6- technique defensive end, a 1-technique nose, a 3- technique under tackle, and a 7- technique defensive end over the tight end. The linebackers are directly stacked behind the tackles in the formation, with the weak-side linebacker, bumped out to help with the twin wide receivers.

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The play is a regular ISO run to the weak side, but the line backer bumped out reads run, and starts to attack the LOS, helping blow up the play.

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Gurley now has to adjust, and cuts to the outside, thinking he can get to the edge for positive yardage. The safety is now coming down hill to meet him. Gurley stumbles some, but keeps his balance.

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Gurley feels the bodies to the outside, and plants on his outside foot, to help him change directions. Once he plants, he explodes through the hole, vacated by the run defenders, breaks a tackle from a backside defender, and scores a touchdown.

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Finally the thing Gurley must work on is his pad level when he runs the football. Being a tall back, he must consistently stay low, and run with a low pad level. His up right running style will not work in the NFL (Darren McFadden).  He is 6’1, but he runs like he is 6’3 at times. When his pads are low, he is damn near unstoppable. Pass protection is also something he must work on in order to become a complete back on the next level. He does have an effective cut block when picking up blitzes or free pass rushers. His thick lower body does help him absorb pass rushers, but his hand placement, needs to be more consistent, as well as not ducking his head when taking on contact. Those are all technical issues that will be fixed.


Injuries are the only pause I have with Gurley. He has missed extensive time in 2013 and 2014 because of injuries. He had an ankle issue on 2013, and tore an ACL in 2014. Maybe because of his running style (high pad level), he is susceptible to a lot of lower leg injuries. He put up some crazy numbers, and does showcase the talent to be a workhorse type back. Barring he stays healthy. 

Justin Hardy route tree breakdown

17 April 2015 - 02:49 PM



I watched 10 game cutups (2012-2014), to see what type of routes ran by Hardy while he dominated at ECU. Hardy ran most of the route tree. Some routes dominated in attempts compared to others. I broke the routes up into 11 groups, and charted each route he ran.  Whether he got the ball or not was really irrelevant in this breakdown, because I was mainly wanting to see what types of routes he was asked to run, and how much success or wins did he accomplish on each one.


A win occurs when Hardy gets any type of separation, and makes himself an open target for his quarterback. This has to occur in man coverage, as well as in zone coverage. He does not have to receive the ball in order to win the play, but simply become open for the quarterback.  Hardy can also win a play if he gets a pass interference called on the defender guarding him, and this happened several times. Some wins came from back shoulder passes, that was created by the Quarterback ball placement, but also by Hardy and his ability to fend defenders away from the ball, or his stem in his route.


Here is the chart.    

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Hardy ran 163 routes during these games. He lined up in the slot, or inside on 135 plays. He lined up outside, at the split-end and flanker positions on 77 plays. In 3 years, I counted only 6 drops. Defensive backs making plays, and breaking the pass up, or defending the pass does not count as a dropped pass to me.


By far, the route he was asked to run the most was a curl or hitch route to the inside. He ran this route at 5- 7 yards, as well as 9-10 yards, based on what type of play was called. He ran a curl 34 times, and won 27 times on those 34 plays. Curl routes made up 21% of his route tree. Hardy had a success rate of 79% on curl routes.  


The route that he was least successful at was the fly/ fade category. I also included, seam routes into this section. He only won 7 times out of 18 plays on routes going vertical up the field. That gave him a 39% success rate for those types of routes. Vertical routes, or fly routes, fades, seams made up 16% of his routes.  In reality, that is not that bad, but that is not where he wins (Josh Norris wording). He also had a low number of attempts at running post, corners, comebacks, and deep out routes (8-12 yards). Being he played so many snaps in the slot, I was wondering why I only seen 1 corner route. He won that play, had good separation, and caught the ball for about a 15-yard gain verse North Carolina Central University. I would have liked to see more of those routes coming from him.


The other category is for combo routes or double moves, such as wheel routes, out and ups etc. Hardy had a 69% success rate on this category. He struggled getting separation on wheel routes, and would turn wheel routes/ out and ups routes into a deep stop route or curl/ comeback.


Broken plays where the quarterback buys time in the pocket, or is scrambling around fits into the other category as well. One thing about Hardy is he stays alive, and helps his quarterback by getting open when they are scrambling around looking for a receiver to pass it to. That would be a huge plus, for teams who quarterback, could extend plays inside and outside of the pocket.  The screen routes category was a collection of bubble, tunnel, and middle screens. As well as smoke routes, with guys blocking out in front for him.


I also wanted to see how he would look verse Florida, and when matched up verse Vernon Hargreaves III, a very good sophomore cornerback (some consider would be the top cornerback in this year draft if eligible). He won only 2 match ups verse VHIII, and both times he ran a curl route.


Kevin Johnson met with the panthers.

02 March 2015 - 09:28 PM


Johnson said he had only informally met with the Panthers at the combine and didn’t have a pre-draft meeting set up with Carolina yet.




i envy other teams beat writers, who put out there, who the teams met with during this process. a panther scout was also at his pro day today.