I’m taking a bit of a gamble this week as Budda Baker is expected to play but isn’t a certainty this week following a groin injury. Lower body injuries are problematic for all players, but especially so for positions that rely on sudden changes of direction. Like a safety. We’ll take the gamble because Baker brings All-Pro potential* into the mix when he’s on the field.
*Realized potential his rookie year.
Even with the All-22 angles, trying to get a handle on safeties can be a chore. Primarily this is because a main role is keeping your head on a swivel and cleaning up after the play develops. What I’m getting at is that this means there’s a whole lotta snaps where it doesn’t really look like much is going on.
This play is a great example. Budda Baker isn’t the first player to the ball. He’s not even the second. Or the third. There’s still a lot to take in for Baker here though. As the deep man he has a lot of field to take in but it all starts with the ball. The line is drawn at the stop to give an idea of the sightline issues a safety might experience in diagnosing a play. From over 20 yards away. I also like this play because it shows the endurance/athleticism needed for the position. Defensive backs are typically part of the 100% club for their team and do a lot of running “just in case” they’re needed.
This is a bit longwinded but the premise is that for the safety position I try to rely more on reaction time, play diagnosis, speed, and tackling ability. Further, these have to be weighed on snaps where the player might not be as directly involved as other positions.
Take this play for example. Baker is on a slight delay, which means the positive yardage is hard to hold against him. Ideally a lineman or linebacker can clog up a lane but the Miami Dolphins have this blocked well. Baker’s delay means he’s in the right gap, but after there’s a head of steam coming his way. Baker crashes low, which stops most of the momentum and then he wraps up the leg in case help is late.
Here’s another quick diagnosis in an ambiguous situation followed by weaving through traffic and crashing hard to the play. This time, Budda Baker is the first person to the ball carrier and Tua Tagovailoa wisely slides.
One more. Baker is inching back in case it’s a pass. As soon as the ball is handed off he’s flying toward it.
The Cardinals like their defensive backs to get in on the pass rush and Budda Baker gets his fair share of opportunities. This is a little further back than most attempts but it helps disguise the defensive play call. Baker times up the first step well, making it very hard to diagnose.
You’ve probably seen the aftermath of this play numerous times by now as DK Metcalf took exception to this interception. You don’t see Baker shadowing anyone in particular all that often, but he’s like glue on
Metcalf’s Chris Carson’s route and handily jumps in front of it.
Back to the pass rush/blitz from the defensive backs, it’s not uncommon at all to see Budda Baker lurking at the line. He’s untouched on this play, but Baker is fast enough to make things happen even when his opponent remembers he exists. Overall I like his tackling too but I highlighted this play as it suggests that Baker should be likely to impact Josh Allen via pressure, but there’s still a good chance that Allen can extend the play. As diminutive as we often feel Wilson is, he’s listed as 20lbs heavier than Baker.
This play was selected to show the need to juggle information rapidly as well as Budda Baker’s closing speed.
And finally we have a coverage snap. These are a little harder to find but when Baker ends up locked onto someone he acquits himself well. What with the All-Pro/Pro Bowl resume and all.
Budda Baker has the athleticism and ability to provide versatility to the Cardinals’ defense. Whether Arizona tries to bring the pressure or provide extra help on the back-end coverage, he’ll be a major component of the game plan. Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills will need to have multiple answers to solve a question like Budda Baker.