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McCreary a Modern Aeneas

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NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Background: Nov 27, 2021; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Auburn Tigers cornerback Roger McCreary (23) breaks up a pass intended for Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Traeshon Holden (11) during the third quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed

As many of you know, every year I try to find the best “white on rice” sticky cover man in the draft. Last year, you might recall, my top defensive pick for the Cardinals was TCU S/slot CB Trevon Moehrig. Moehrig made PFF’s 2021 All-Rookie Team:

S TREVON MOEHRIG, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Moehrig was the closest thing to a pure single-high safety the NFL had this season in Las Vegas. The Raiders’ 59% Cover 3 rate was 17 percentage points higher than any other defense in the league, and their 82% of snaps with a single-high safety post-snap were also most in the NFL by over 10 percentage points. Moehrig impressed in that role.

The Raiders allowed just three completions on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield and between the numbers all season, tied for third-fewest of any defense, and a good chunk of the credit there can go to the rookie out of TCU. Moehrig was credited with nearly as many interceptions plus forced incompletions (6) as he had completions allowed as the primary coverage defender (9).

The most mind-boggling reality that I can think of about GM Steve Keim and DC Vance Joseph is the fact that while having to defend the likes of Cooper Kupp, Deebo Samuel and Tyler Lockett in their own division, the Cardinals have never added a slot CB who can cover these dudes. Nor do the Cardinals have a reliable cover safety to help over the top.

Even worse, because there is no CB on the roster who has the feet, leverage and quick-twitch break on the ball skills, it has caused Vance Joseph to resort to employing some of the softest zone coverages the NFL has ever seen. Vance Joseph is one of the most incompetent zone cover coordinators in all of football. His players seem to have little to no concept of picking up the man in their zones and covering him —- nor do they follow the most basic of rules in zone coverage: (1) if you are standing still, you are not doing your job; (2) if there is no man in your zone underneath, you must peal backward to help on the intermediate to deep passes. Sorry to say all of this, but, is it inaccurate?

Chandler Jones left the Cardinals because he felt Vance Joseph wasn’t maximizing his talents. That statement from Chandler is 100% true. Having him drop off into pass coverage, both in man and zones, not only created easily exploitable mismatches for the opposing offense, it took Chandler out of what he does best —- rushing the passer.

Not only was Chandler exposed, how about Devon Kennard and Markus Golden? How about Jordan Hicks in man coverage versus fast running backs? Look at how Sean McVay of the Rams took advantage of those mismatches. Do you remember Hicks trying to chase Cam Akers on wheel routes and not even being within 5 yards of him? That’s not Hicks’ fault. It’s the fault of the coordinator.

These man cover mismatches and soft zones were the main reasons why Russell Wilson in Week 18 connected on 14 plays of more than 20 yards. Same for Jared Goff who owns Vance joseph’s defenses. How about Matthew Stafford? How do his last two lines versus the Cardinals look to you?

Stafford’s last two games versus Cardinals:

Week 14: 23/30. 287 yards, 76.7%, 3 TD, 0 int. 3 sacks, QBR 139.4 (Rams 30, Cardinals 23)

Wild Card: 13/17, 202 yards, 76.5%, 2 TD, 0 int., 1 sack, QBR 154.1 (Rams 34, Cardinals 11)

Those were 2 of Stafford’s 3 highest QBR ratings of his season, with his week 156.1 QBR versus the Bears in Week 1.

Cooper Kupp’s last two games versus Cardinals:

18 catches on 22 targets for 184 yards and 2 TDs.

Tyler Lockett’s last two games versus Cardinals:

9 catches on 10 targets for 213 yards and 2 TDs (remember his 200 yard, 2 TD game in prime time versus the Cardinals in 2020?)

When are the Cardinals ever going to address this?

Vance Joseph has always claimed that he prefers to play press man coverage while sending optimum pressure on the opposing QB.

Joseph is good at generating pressure —- so —-

How about doing the following:

Add an edge rusher in FA (Jadeveon Clowney, Justin Houston, Carlos Dunlap or Jerry Hughes) to go with J.J. Watt, Markus Golden and Dennis Gardeck —- or add one of the best edge rushers with pick #23 in the draft.

And then —- find a way in the draft to acquire the stickiest slot CB in the draft in Auburn’s Roger McCready.

Do yourself a favor and watch the tape —- and imagine this kid in Cardinal red:

The reason why PFF has McCreary ranked #54 in the draft is:

McCreary is an ultra-smooth corner who rarely cedes much separation. He’s been battle-tested with 75 targets but has allowed only 34 catches while mixing in 13 pass breakups. His lack of length is concerning if he wants to stick on the outside.

But, if you go and watch McCreary’s full body of work versus the top WRs in the SEC, he fared well against all sizes of receivers. His game in 2019 versus Ja’Marr Chase was outstanding, as was his 2021 game versus Jameson Williams.

One of the most gifted cover CB I have ever seen is Aeneas Williams (a member of my All-Time Cardinals’ Mount Rushmore Secondary: LCB Aeneas Williams, FS Larry Wilson, SS Adrian Wilson and RCB Roger Wehrli).

How does Roger McCreary stacks up physically with Aeneas?

Height:

  • Aeneas: 5-11
  • MCCreary: 5-11 3/8

Weight:

  • Aeneas: 187
  • McCreary: 190

40 Time

  • Aeneas: 4.57
  • McCreary: 4.46

Vertical Jump:

  • Aeneas: 32”
  • McCreary: 32”

20 Yard Shuttle:

  • Aeneas: 4.31
  • McCreary 4.29

225 Reps:

  • Aeneas: 12
  • McCreary: 19

Most impressive stat about Roger McCreary in 2021?

Overall PFF CB grade of 89.9 which was #2 of 887 rated CBs. And McCreary accomplished this stellar achievement while playing in the SEC against the top WRs in the USA.

Think about that.

McCreary also has more pass breakups (30) than any other college CB over the past 4 years. Add that to his career 6 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries.

Consensus: (The Patriots’ writers on Fan Nation said it best):

Full analysis: https://www.si.com/nfl/patriots/news/patriots-2022-draft-profile-roger-mccreary-is-a-playmaker-with-ridiculous-ball-skills

Bottom line: McCreary’s speed and instincts will make him a contributor on day one with his NFL team. He faced a gauntlet of receivers in the SEC week in and week out. He held his own each time holding Alabama’s Jameson Williams, Devonta Smith, Mississippi State’s Makai Polk, Ole Miss’s Braylon Sanders, and Dontario Drummond to low receiving totals. His matchup with Penn State’s Jahan Dotson went very similarly as well. This will smoothen the transition to the NFL, even though we know that the guys at this level are more advanced. McCreary’s combine measurements of his arm’s length will scare some teams who have a prerequisite number they want their prospects to hit. The tape really shows that has not been a hindrance to him so far in his journey. His playstyle is similar to that of Casey Hayward of the Atlanta Falcons. He was talked about as a surefire 1st rounder before the combine, but there is a probability that he will be on the board in round 2.

Where will Roger McCready be drafted?

Recent Mocks:

  • Sporting News: #37 HOU
  • DraftWire: #45 BAL
  • CBS: #53: LV
  • PFF: #46 MIN

In my most recent mock, when none of the top edge rushers and WRs were available at pick #23, I made a trade down to pick #29 to take Roger McCready, plus I was able to add the #94 pick (Round 3).

I cannot envision McCreary being available for the Cardinals at pick #55.

The other issue is, the other CBs in this draft who might be available at pick #55 are nowhere near as polished and NFL ready as McCreary. Not even close.

Plus, why not do all you can to get the best man cover dawg in this draft?

Thus, let’s say that the Cardinals are able to draft one of the best edge rushers or wide receivers a pick #23. Then, how about finding a way to trade up into the early portion of Round 2 in order to tab McCreary much the same way the Cardinals did when they moved up to take Budda Baker.

Would I be all right with giving up the #55 and #87 picks in order to draft McCready?

Yes.

In the names of Cooper Kupp, Deebo Samuel and Tyler Lockett —- YES!

I think McCreary, like Budda Baker was, is a 1st round talent, who like Budda was in 2017, is being scrutinized for a lack of ideal size.

If you go and look at all of the 2017 redrafts that many publications make, the three that I perused all had Budda Baker redrafted in the top 15 of that draft.

The other possibility for moving up would be to offer the #55 pick plus a 2023 3rd rounder. As of right now, it looks like the Cardinals have a compensatory 3rd round pick, thanks to Christian Kirk and the Jaguars.

Thus. if Roger McCreary is still on the board in the 40s, some team might be more than willing to take the #55 pick plus the Cardinals 3rd round pick this year or next year’s.

That’s how important it is, in my opinion, to acquire a flat-out dawg at cover corner.