First Team Reps: Corey White

The news came out on Monday that second-year starter Ronald Darby is now in an “open competition” with Corey White. This caused quite the frenzy in the media and across all social media platforms. The news was surprising because Darby isn’t the only defensive back to struggle this season. Stephon Gilmore and safety Robert Blanton have also had their moments in the doghouse.

This move by the defensive staff, in my opinion, is meant to motivate Darby and others in the secondary. They have blown several coverages this year as a unit, but guys like Darby just haven’t played up to their abilities.

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Darby has struggled both in press and man coverage, often getting beaten during the release phase of the receivers’ routes.

 

Corey White was inserted into the Seahawks game and he did an admirable job matching up with wide receivers Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse. White, much like the other defensive backs, excels in man coverage. He is not as physical in press man coverage as Gilmore, but he does rely on his technique rather than strength when pressing.

On this play, the motion causes the Bills to check into cover 2. Accordingly, White must funnel Lockett inside. Even though Russell Wilson snaps the ball before White can get set into press coverage, White uses great technique to execute his assignment. Lockett releases outside, but White uses the near arm jam to stymy the WR, which better funnels the WR inside to help.

 

White was targeted three times and only allowed one reception for 7 yards vs. the Hawks. Part of the reason I liked the signing of White was his footwork and ability to mirror wide receivers.  The fifth-year corner has very smooth footwork and wastes very few steps when in man coverage. Check out how well he handles the most explosive Seahawks wide receiver.

Here’s another example. He plays with extreme confidence, but he is able to back his confidence up when in a position to succeed. That position is in press man coverage. White’s ability to mirror is definitely his strength. On the snap as Kearse jabs inside, White does as well to take away the inside release. But he is still in position to defend outside.

 

Corey has been in the league for many years, and he relies on that game experience to keep him level. Kearse had beaten Darby earlier in the game, but defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman still called the same game with White in. On this play, White is in Kearse’s face, and he doesn’t get turned around. With his eyes staring down the midline of the receiver, he calmly opens to the receiver and immediately gets in the hip pocket and carries him down the field. The help over the top allowed White to be in tight coverage from the release.

 

It’s no secret that the way to attack the Bills’ corners is down the field, so Thurman has had to play more off coverage than many expected. But considering how, during the offseason, Darby stated that he was working on press coverage more, one could conclude it has been a weakness of his for some time. Part of that reason is that he allows the receiver to eat up the cushion. That occurs because his natural instinct is to jump the short routes, hence his tendency to get beaten on double moves.

White doesn’t allow the receiver to break the cushion. He backpedals, and when he feels the receiver beginning to break the cushion he opens his hips and runs. This allows him to stay over the top and in position to deter the deep shot.

 

He is able to do that because he knows that he has help short, letting him focus on the deep pass. Darby has struggled to recognize where his help is coming from and hasn’t used the boundary as a defender at all this season.

 

White has only started one game this season (week 3 against the Cardinals). It was a game where he was targeted 11 times and allowed seven receptions for 73 yards. Many will look at those numbers and be discouraged, but that’s a 10.4 yard per completion average, which is much better than the 20.3 yards per completion that Darby has given up in the last four games. For White’s career, he has given up 11.7 yards per completion.

Most of the receptions in the Arizona game were like this:

 

The biggest play he gave up was a deep comeback route, but he didn’t play it that poorly. He stayed over the top of the two vertical routes. Robey is unable to help underneath because of the route by Fitzy down the seam.

 

As you can see, the biggest reason that Rex is opening up the corner position to competition is because Darby has struggled with his technique and confidence. He isn’t relying on his fundamentals and physical assets like he did last season. The defensive staff sees these guys practice every day, so they must see Darby struggling in practice, as well. There is no doubt that Darby is a more athletic player than White, but athletic abilities can only take you so far.

White uses good technique to play in and play out, and that is what Darby needs to improve on: consistency. I don’t think that White is the long term solution; I just believe that Rex is on a mission to hold his players accountable. When he makes a bad play call, he admits to it at the podium. Now, he is doing the same to his players; Something that he hasn’t done much of in the past.


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