Deone Bucannon: What can he offer in the run game?

Norm Hall

The Cardinals made the hard hitting strong safety the 27th pick in the draft because he offers them something they already had, with the upside to be even more.

When the Arizona Cardinals picked up Deone Bucannon with the 27th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, there seemed to be an indifference from the fan base on their opinion of the pick.

While the need for a strong safety, a young enforcer and someone who could be a weapon against the tight ends that lit the Cardinals on fire in 2013, but also maintain that edge in the run game that made the Cardinals the best in the league, was obvious, many thought that the chance at getting such a player was slim.

The consensus was Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor were the top two safeties, and if the Cardinals could not get one of those two at 20, then it was time to address another position.

Draft day came and low and behold Clinton-Dix, the rangy cover safety from Alabama was sitting on the board at 20, but the Cardinals instead passed.

I remember sitting with my dad at the time and telling him, "this means they’re taking Jason Verrett or  Deone Bucannon, maybe  Ra’Shede Hageman." But there were some red flags on Hageman.  Once Verrett was gone I tweeted "Cardinals going Bucannon… Maybe Hageman," and began to formulate my thoughts on either of the options.

I talked extensively about Bucannon off of what I had watched on him on his Arizona Sports profile, and one thing stood out to me… He’s not what they were missing in 2013, instead he is eerily similar to what they already had in Yeremiah Bell.

Now this is no knock against Bucannon, as he is a younger, more athletic version of Bell, but he is similar in his strengths as a player right now.

Bucannon is an inch taller and ten pounds heavier than Bell already, and has better straight line speed, but when you watch him, he plays the game similarly.

Bucannon knows and understands working in the box, coming down hill in the run game and making his presence felt, but he's better when working from the typical strong safety or free safety position, where he has a bigger view of the field.

He has time working close to the line of scrimmage, and he has his plays where he's disruptive:

And plays where the offense picks on his overaggressive nature:

Mind you, Taylor Kelly and Max Wittek are not Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson when it comes to running ability. The truth of the matter is, he's just better against the run right now from a more traditional position (top play from traditional spot, bottom play from box spot, RB gains nearly same amount of yards): That's not necessarily a bad thing right now either. While Yeremiah Bell could play close to the line of scrimmage at times, more times than not he was in a traditional safety role, meaning that there shouldn't be a ton of change in how the Cardinals defense does things. When you watch Bucannon as a run defender, the thing that concerns you the most is that he too often leaves his feet to make a tackle and his inability to take on blockers.

What you want is more of this: And less of this:

(Getting blocked by slot receiver)

Bucannon has all the makings of an elite type of safety in the NFL, but he has to reign in some of his aggressive play, be a cog in the defense early on and pick his spots to take chances. But from a run defender stand point, right now he's exactly what the Cardinals needed to replace the retired Bell.

You love the way Bucannon takes aggressive, smart angles in pursuit in the run game. He works through trash fairly well, but when he's engaged, a lot of the time, he's done on the play, which isn't what you want.

The other thing, the thing that you can't teach, and what will make Bucannon even more of an asset on this defense, is that he is always going for the ball and knows how to make the play.

Bucannon is not the ball of athletic clay that Adrian Wilson was coming out of North Carolina State, he's more refined in a lot of aspects already, but again, right now he's more Bell than Wilson, and that is not a bad thing.

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