Jalen Ramsey Rises Up

The week 12 matchup between the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars will not be a game that many viewers across the country will see. But I believe the fans of these teams are going to see a very good game. Both teams match up well against each other, and both have some young, up and coming talent.

For Buffalo, LeSean McCoy and the NFL’s number one rushing offense settle in at New Era Field against a very good Jaguars defense that ranks 7th overall. The Bills’ offense should be getting back one of their most feared offensive players in Sammy Watkins. Though it will probably be in limited role, having Watkins on the field should boost Tyrod Taylor and the 32nd ranked passing offense.

The Jaguars’ defense, who is currently ranked 5th against the pass, will most likely try to use their 1st round draft pick Jalen Ramsey to take away Watkins. Ramsey was drafted 5th overall by GM Dave Caldwell, a St. Francis High School graduate (Buffalo), and Caldwell appears to have hit big.

In an era where the NFL is referred to as a passing league, you don’t see many defensive backs referred to as “shutdown corners.” But based on what I have seen on film so far this year, Ramsey may just be the next shutdown corner.

He was considered by many as the best player in the draft, and when he made it to the Jacksonville at 5, head coach Gus Bradley must have been ecstatic. Bradley worked in Seattle as the defensive coordinator when the “Legion of Boom” burst onto the scene, so he knows good defensive back play.

Ramsey is the prototypical corner that coaches want in today’s NFL. He is big at 6’1″, 209 pounds, and has a tremendous wing span with 33 3/8 inch arms. He is fast, clocking in at 4.41 seconds in the forty-yard dash. But most of all, he puts all of that together and can play the position from every technique and alignment.

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Although the Jaguars system is one that uses lots of similar coverages to Bradley’s days in Seattle, such as single high safety, press looks, it appears that Jacksonville utilizes more man coverage with starters Prince Amukamura and Ramsey.

This means that the corners are on islands A LOT!! This puts a lot of pressure on them, but it also means that they are targeted often. Ramsey has been targeted 56 times in 11 games, allowing 35 receptions for 400 yards. Sounds like a lot right? Sure it does, but when you consider the style of play the Jags play and the fact that Ramsey typically shadows the opposing team’s #1 wide receiver, these numbers aren’t that staggering. To keep it in perspective, Bills fans, Stephon Gilmore has been targeted 48 times, allowing 31 catches for 518 yards.

Check out my Gilmore breakdown here:

Meanwhile, Ronald Darby has been targeted 52 times, allowing 32 receptions for 489 yards. Keep in mind the Bills defense doesn’t usually shadow opposing wide receivers.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Jags have shadowed receivers five times this year.

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Check out how he has performed when that player was actually targeted.

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Courtesy of PFF.

When you turn on the film, his style of play just jumps out.  He is very physical at the line of scrimmage, and he loves to get his hands on receivers during their release phase.

On this 3rd and 4 play, Detroit brings out a 3×1 receiver set. The Jags lock Ramsey on receiver Marvin Jones, who is the solo WR to the top of the screen. Look at how he uses his hands to disrupt and downright over power the release of Jones. But it doesn’t end there — he then has the hips and footwork to mirror the receiver.

His intelligence and technique often lead to him winning from play to play. His film against Texans wideout Deandre Hopkins was fascinating to watch. I consider Hopkins to be the #2 receiver in the NFL, but hats off to Ramsey. As far as I am concerned, he shut Hopkins down.

The rookie more than held his own, showing off very tight coverage on every pass that was thrown Hopkins’s way. On this play, the Texans align Hopkins off the line of scrimmage and also motion the receiver to avoid any sort of bump and run. Hopkins has the upper hand, as Ramsey’s hips are already open to the field. But as Hopkins breaks, Ramsey plants off his left foot, turns and shows remarkable agility and speed to take the proper angle to cut off the throw.

On this play, Ramsey uses his physicality and hands to force Hopkins wide. Receivers are taught to stay tight to the ‘red line’, which is an imaginary line that is typically 3 yards from the sideline. That three-yard space gives the quarterback an area to throw the deep pass to.

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Check out how Ramsey forces Hopkins much wider than where the stem of the route needed to be.

Ramsey has the long arms and strength to affect the receiver before he even gets into the route. His arm length and 9.5 inch hands strike accurate blows on receivers. Check out how he strikes with his left hand, looking to take away the quick slant. Hopkins swipes Ramsey’s left arm, but Ramsey has the agility to QUICKLY flip his hips and continue hand fighting while in Hopkins’ pocket. That’s showing off a unique blend of skill and technique!!

 

The physicality that Ramsey exhibited versus Hopkins definitely frustrated the talented wideout.

 

Ramsey got the better of Hopkins by using his physicality, but flashback to week six against the Bears and you will see that Jalen met his match. Alshon Jeffery probably had the most success against Ramsey of any receiver this year. The physical abilities of Ramsey did not overpower Jeffery because Alshon is a bigger and stronger player at this point in their respective careers.2016-11-26_18-31-14

Alshon stands 6’3″, 216 pounds, and is much thicker than Hopkins.

When Ramsey attempted to land a blow on Jeffery during his drive phase, the big wideout was able to absorb it with his lower body strength and counter with his length and hand skills.

Jeffery is so slippery and deceptively fast that he caught Ramsey by surprise. On the next play, Ramsey tries landing a straight right to Jeffery’s right shoulder, but the veteran executes a stutter release and shrinks the surface area for said blow, then releases outside.

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As he releases outside, he uses his long arms to swat away the rookie, and that throws Ramsey off balance. He recovers and gets back into the receivers hip pocket, but then Jeffery drops his hips, dips his head and gears down as if he is going to make a break.

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So Ramsey anticipates the break and plants hard with his left just as Alshon accelerates down the field.

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Luckily, the pass was not an accurate one….

Here’s the play in full:

 

But the rook has the confidence you want from your cover corner. He never backed down from Jeffery. Jeffery caught 6 balls in the first half, but Ramsey held him to just one catch in the second half. On fourth down and with the game on the line, Ramsey stepped up. The Bears again targeted Jeffery, and Ramsey closed the game out.

The high draft pick has the swagger of Deion Sanders, but he isn’t afraid to tackle. He currently has 42 tackles (30 versus the pass and 12 versus the run), good for the 8th highest run stop percentage and 4th most run stops (6).

Here, he takes a great angle to the ball and makes the sure tackle on Boldin to force fourth down.

 

I’m the best ever…Theres no one who can stop me! Theres no one like me. There’s no one who can match me! My style is unmatchable! I want your heart! -Jalen Ramsey

 

Jalen Ramsey has all of the tools to be a shutdown corner in the future. Right now he is solely relying on his physical talents. As the film shows, in the NFL that is not enough. Veteran receivers get paid to get open, so Ramsey will have his struggles as he adapts to receivers of varied sizes and skill sets. But once he begins recognizing NFL route combinations and coverages, the sky is the limit for this kid. He has a short term memory and the confidence in himself to rise up to any challenge.

 


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