Welcome back to Two-look Tuesday! Here at Buffalo Rumblings, we like to keep an open mind on 2016 NFL Draft prospects, knowing that there are members of the writing staff and community with different backgrounds and skills to collectively evaluate. That's why we're bringing in guests to help break down prospects for you.
This is a stream-of-consciousness series, where two viewers watch the same cut-up, write notes as we're viewing, and then deliver some short thoughts following the conclusion of the game. Two people may watch the same video and come out with different conclusions - or they may find themselves in total agreement. With the added perspective, we hope you'll join in with your own thoughts on the players we scout.
Today we're taking a look at the 6'1" 212 pound Duke safety/linebacker Jeremy Cash, with the assistance of Jeff Hunter. Jeff wrote about Jacoby Brissett for us last time he was in the series, and we decided to look at a different Carolinian today. We watched Cash's 2015 game against North Carolina. As always, Jeff's notes lead off, and mine come second.
- Bit hard on the flea flicker, leaving his man open for the first TD of the game.
- The first few plays have him blitzing from linebacker depth. He tends to get a good jump on the snap.
- Good at shedding blocks from receivers and tight ends
- Read an option perfectly near the end of the first quarter, and slowed up Marquise Williams enough to keep him out of the end zone.
- Of course, the very next play had him misreading an option after blitzing off the side, and UNC scored on the play.
- The second quarter is underway, and I have yet to see him in coverage on this tape. Duke DC Jim Knowles loves to send him on blitzes, and it’s obvious as to why.
- The very next play, he drops into coverage, of course. He identified the flat route to the RB almost instantly and stopped the play for a loss.
- Jumped offsides on a missed FG attempt. UNC converted the ensuing fourth-and-one.
- He’s listed as a safety, but he doesn’t play at the traditional safety spot on the field. He tends to either blitz from an OLB spot or line up as a nickel corner.
- I have yet to see a receiver even come close to stopping him with a block.
- There seems to be a tendency where I notice something, and then the next play completely defies that observation. He gets pancaked by a TE, but still manages to get up and engage the play.
- He doesn’t seem to engage in man coverage too much. Duke ran a lot of zone in this game, and most of his coverage was in the flat. It makes it very hard to get a feel for him as a traditional safety.
- A UNC WR finally managed to keep him away from the ball, but from what I saw it looked like he was held and the receiver got away with one.
- I finally see him in man coverage on the slot receiver. He had his man good, and Williams had to throw the ball away.
- Two minutes left in the half, and a receiver finally gets a good, clean block on him.
- Blitzed from an OLB spot up the gut, but the RB picked it up and held him off just long enough for Williams to throw a TD bomb.
- Started off the third by blitzing and engaging the RT. It looked like he was held, but he did disengage in time to see the pass fall incomplete.
- He’s good at reading the option, but the rest of Duke’s defense…well, they struggled in this one.
- Excellent when it comes to defending flat routes.
- Tangled up with the LT on a play, and disengaged to make an assist on the tackle for a short gain.
- Beat the RT to get to the RB on a run up the gut for another short gain.
- With 4:52 to go in the third, I finally see a play where Cash is the deepest defender on the field at the snap…and it’s from the five…and UNC scored.
- He’s been great all game at getting to the ball carrier first. He hasn’t made the play every time, but he’s top-notch in pursuit.
- On fourth-and-one (which UNC is going for when they’re up 59-24, for some reason), the QB completes a first down pass to a guy that Cash was probably supposed to be covering. When he comes up to make most of his plays, it’s hard to notice that he seems to miss things going on behind him.
- On the next play, he makes it incredibly obvious that he’s blitzing the B-gap,but still makes it through clean and gets a hit on the QB,
- He was flagged for roughing the passer on that play for hitting the QB at the knees. His reaction face is priceless.
Jeremy Cash is a physically gifted player. He can fly to the ball, break blocks with relative ease, and he’s a strong tackler most of the time. The problem with him is that it’s almost impossible to tell where he projects into an NFL defense. He’s listed at about 6’1", 212, which is on the small side for an outside linebacker, but that’s where most of his tape seems to have him playing. He spent the bulk of this game either blitzing or covering shallow routes, which he can do very well. He reminds me a lot of former Bill Bryan Scott, who seemed to play a lot of roles fairly well. He’s not as good of a tackler as Scott was, but he reads the ball much better. He could sneak into the first round if the fit is right, but he could also slip into the third if teams don’t know what to make of him.
- First snap, in the slot, bites on a running back flea flicker, his man gets open for a deeeeeep TD.
- Now playing OLB. Run play, he fights through a block but isn't near the runner
- Nice form tackle on the QB keeper, limited it to a short gain
- OLB again at the goalline. Blitzes off the edge unblocked, almost generates a hurry.
- Blitzing the B gap, the QB throws a quick pass and he does a good job decelerating but he's not near the play
- Nice handfighting techniques. Working against a TE, he knows about using a swim move to come free of the block.
- Goalline, looks to be playing the middle of the field. Recognizes the QB keeper but takes a somewhat bad angle. Shoestring tackle though.
- Blitzes the QB but the ball was handed to the running back and it went for a TD.
- Now in the slot on 3rd and 3. Sees the swing pass coming the whole way and delivers a heckuva hit to the RB for a loss.
- So far he is too agile and too good at handfighting to be blocked on the perimeter. But his tackling form isn't always there.
- In zone coverage, he keeps proper depth on the running back and the ball isn't thrown his way.
- Oops, jumped early on a field goal attempt.
- Well, if you wanted a defender who can defeat those stupid passes to the flat that killed us last year, Cash is a good option.
- Goalline stand time. Cash has had two snaps where he mostly just pushed his man down and kind of fell. Not the same impact he had between the twenties.
- I can tell Cash watches a lot of film. He is recognizing when UNC repeats a play.
- Cash gets fooled by some misdirection but recovers and stays in position to cover his man, forcing an incompletion.
- Cash was blocked away pretty convincingly in that last run play.
- Nice blitz up the middle, but it was picked up and the QB has time to throw another long TD.
- I think, in this game, I'm seeing a general lack of core strength from Cash. If he can't win with his handfighting or initial burst he can be blocked.
- Excellent timing on a blitz but he's the backside defender on this run play and no one is in position to stop the RB from a touchdown.
- Tight hips? I feel like I'm seeing Cash falling down a lot trying to make a tackle while changing direction.
- If you're looking for a traditional safety... I'm not really sure I have one. On this squad, Cash is playing the Jalen Ramsey freshman role of "blitz the hell out of everyone and defend the run"
- Another missed shoestring tackle, I think it's part a lacking athleticism and part a lack of the knowledge of his limitations.
- Excellent third down blitz, hurried the QB. But he got a flag for roughing the passer???
- That was an iffy penalty and Cash knows it.
The thing about Cash, which is apparent in this game and pretty much any game you watch, is that you see him play in a position that maximizes his strengths (timing the snap, fighting off weaker blockers, tracking the ball in the run game, making tackles) and see that he is extremely good in that role. But you're always left wondering if he's capable of doing other things expected of a true safety, such as deep zone coverage or man-to-man up the seam. If he isn't, the question is where he fits in the NFL.
Traditionally, a safety who doesn't play "safety" doesn't see time on the field. Tyrann Mathieu has been excellent since joining the league as one of those hybrid types, but he was a corner-safety hybrid with plenty of coverage acumen. Deone Bucannon is playing a hybrid OLB/S role for the Cardinals after playing safety in college, but he had more coverage snaps before joining the NFL. The same goes for Mark Barron, who was a first round selection at safety, struggled in coverage in the NFL, was traded to the Rams and flourished this year as a blitzing outside linebacker. Barron, who ran a 4.55 40 yard dash at his pro day after recovering from double hernia surgery, might represent the upside of Cash. Placed into a defense that values a blitzer who can clean up the backside of plays and blow things up in the backfield, he can be a player who gets 10 tackles for loss per season and puts teams into bad enough down and distance that his weaknesses aren't an issue. If Cash is drafted as a standard safety, I'm worried he'll struggle the same way Barron did. In fact, I worry a lot more, because at least Barron had 12 career interceptions and played a true safety in college. While Cash has six (which speaks to his skill tracking the ball and completing a catch), projecting him in Buffalo's defense feels like being asked to record a jazz album with Sun Ra.
I was hoping that Cash would show off some coverage chops in the Senior Bowl, but he was quiet in practices there. The Combine is probably his last shot to demonstrate to me that he has the requisite athleticism and comfort in his positional drills that he can hold it down.