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Eagles Evaluations: Cornerback Ronald Darby

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(Photo by Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon Sportswire)

When newly acquired-via-trade Eagles CB Ronald Darby went down with a nasty ankle injury in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins, the fear was it meant the end of his season. The Eagles caught a break, however… or didn’t, and later found out it was an ankle dislocation that would keep him out for significant time but boded well for a mid-season return.

Fast forward 6 weeks and Darby is back practicing with the team, albeit with limited participation, and is questionable heading into the Monday Night Football tilt against the Redskins.

Yesterday I dusted off my Scouting Academy evaluation of Redskins WR Terrelle Pryor Sr. to detail his strengths and weaknesses. In the summer I entered the Scouting Academy Prove It Competition and for the semi-finals I submitted a report on Darby. The round was judged by recent Tennessee Titans Scouting Director Blake Beddingfield and proved detailed and accurate enough to advance to the finals.

The stars have aligned, and I now bring you the second part in the potential Darby-Pryor match-up. A quick reminder, these reports are intended to be written with the flair of a legal document, coaches don’t need to be communicated fluff. Also, this report is based on watching six games from 2016 and one from 2015.

SCOUTING REPORT

2nd year starting CB that has started 29 of 29 games with 3 games missed due to injury (hamstring, concussion, groin respectively). Contributed to 77% of the Bills’ 2016 defensive snaps and 20% of the special teams’ snaps primarily as a gunner. 2nd year in HC Rex Ryan’s zone/blitz reliant coverage scheme. Slightly undersized frame with very good AA; relies on straight-line speed, fluid hips, and quick, typewriter feet.

STRENGTHS

2nd Gear, Hip Fluidity, Press Coverage, Click/Close, Use of Hands

Good mental processing; diagnoses alignments correctly pre-snap and is quick to close on bubble screens/short drop routes. Keys on WR tilts and feet in route stem to jump routes from off man coverage, arrives at catch-point with good timing and hand location for pass break-ups.

Very good at the LOS; mirrors receivers patiently and forces WR to commit before opening on release from press. Active/physical use of hands throughout route stem to disrupt timing of routes while staying glued to hip pocket.

Good in man coverage; runs routes for WRs in trail position by keying on hips and consistently undercuts. Steers smoothly while shuffling to squeeze and stack outside releases, consistently uses sideline as an extra defender to tighten throwing windows.

Clean, low backpedal and explosive click and close on underneath routes. Possesses hip fluidity to zone turn and speed turn smoothly paired with elite second gear to carry vertical routes from faster WRs and consistently stays in phase.

Very good play speed; excels at timing and locating when breaking up passes working laterally when he has more time to track.

Good in run support; maintains good leverage to contain when coming downhill and solid open field tackler, rarely overruns gap responsibilities. Solid open field tackler; brings speed and force as a tackler with a low aiming point and wrap against all types of ball-carriers. Accurate punch/strip when engaging held up ball-carriers.

Very good competitive toughness; competes every rep, will put bad plays behind him immediately, and demeanor matches situation.

WEAKNESSES

Jump Balls, Double Moves, vs. Strength at Breakpoint

Quicker WRs can get him on his heels from press with stutters and jabs. Overly reliant on athleticism; aggressive body positioning early in routes leads to false steps, opening hips early and separation at breakpoint.

Struggles to stay disciplined with no safety help; will get baited easily on double moves. Adequate ball skills; tendency to panic with back to the ball and is an inconsistent finisher at the catch-point due to issues locating ball in the air and occasionally mistimes jump. Lacks natural hands and will let balls into his body.

Adequate play strength; occasionally muscled past the breakpoint and at the catch-point by bigger WRs. Will drop head when tackling and lose sight of target, causing occasional missed tackles.

SUMMARY

Overall, a starting CB1 you can win with that can shadow most opposing teams’ WR1. Excels in press man coverage and has the athletic profile to play off man coverage, will struggle with taller/stronger assignments. Can contribute on special teams as a gunner.

Michael is an NFL Draft enthusiast, aspiring scout, and grandson of longtime East Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS football coach John P. Kist. He hosts Locked On Eagles and writes for Inside the Pylon & Breaking Football.

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