So far in this analysis of the Baltimore Ravens Free Safeties, I looked at Darian Stewart and Will Hill and their abilities to play Free Safety. Darian Stewart is primarily a cover 2 Free Safety who struggles against the deep passes, but is an excellent defender underneath. Will Hill is primarily a cover 1 or cover 3 defender who can play deep cover 2 very well. Will Hill is unavailable to play for the Ravens for the first 6 weeks, so rookie Terrence Brooks may be called upon to fill the role while Will Hill is out.
At Florida State, Terrence Brooks was a back-up Cornerback for two years before moving to the Free Safety position. As a Free Safety in his senior year, Brooks played primarily in a 4-2-5 Defense towards the end of the season. A 4-2-5 defense has 5 defensive backs, where three defensive backs are Safeties – Strong Side, Weak Side and Free Safety. The Free Safety divides the formation down the middle of the field and then attempts to recognize three offensive alignments:
- Pro-Set – a Tight End and Wide Receiver
- Twin Set – Two Wide Receivers
- Trips – Three Wide Receivers
As the Free Safety, Brooks was responsible for studying the offensive formation and adjusting the secondary coverage.
In the final article in this series, I will take a look at Terrence Brooks ability to read, recognize and react to the deep passing offensive plays from the Auburn Tigers during the 2014 National Championship game. Does Terrence Brooks have the ability to make an immediate impact for the Ravens in the 2014-2015 season?
You can discuss this on the BSL board here.
Coverage against vertical passing
During the National Championship game, Terrance Brooks had difficulty defending against deep passing in the center of the field. In the first quarter, confusion by Brooks on the coverage assignments almost led to a touchdown.
Let’s look at a completed pass where Brooks misread the coverage coverage assignment. In the 1st Quarter on 3rd and 13, Auburn lines up in the trips formation where 3 receivers are on one side of the field and 1 receiver is on the opposite side of the field. The Florida State defense lines up in a 4-2-5 Defense. The secondary coverage call is 2-Blue-Special. This call breaks down as follows:
- 2 – This refers to the read side coverage. The read side is the side of the passing strength, and is the side that the SS and FS go to. When the ball is snapped, the FS (Brooks) will determine if it is a run play or pass play. If it is a pass play, Brooks will look at the #2 WR to determine his route. If the #2 WR releases vertically, Brooks will provide man coverage on the receiver. If the WR releases in or out, Brooks will cover the #1 receiver underneath looking to rob a curl, post or dig route.
- Blue – This refers to the away side overage. On the away side the Weakside Safety and Cornerback read the release of the single WR. Depending on the release of the WR, the Safety or WR will provide coverage.
- Special – This means that the read side corner will play man coverage on the #1 receiver. The SS and FS (Brooks) will treat the remaining two Wide Receivers like they were the #1 and #2 receivers. At the snap of the ball, Brooks will look at the #3 receiver and adjust his coverage based on his release.
After the ball is snapped, Brooks is supposed to look at the #3 WR and adjust his coverage based on his release. The WR releases vertically. Brooks is supposed to cover the WR with man coverage and allow the SS to cover the #2 WR with man coverage. Unfortunately, Brooks misreads the release and drops down underneath WR#2 anticipating a curl or dig route. This leaves WR #3 open in the middle of the field.
The Auburn QB Nick Marshall is able to complete a 26 yard pass to WR #3 Marcus Davis for a first down.
Coverage on a Receiver
As a former Cornerback, Terrence Brooks has above average coverage skills for a FS. In the Third Quarter on 3rd and 12, the Seminoles defense lines up in a 4-3 Cover 1 Robber formation. Terrence Brooks plays the robber position. Brooks’ coverage responsibility is to sit in zone coverage underneath the Free Safety reading the QB. If the QB makes the proper read, he will make a throw outside. If the QB does not recognize Brooks playing zone coverage underneath, there is an opportunity for Brooks to get an interception or a pass deflection.
On this play, Brooks recognizes the proper release and is able to align himself to obtain inside leverage. This forces the Quarterback to make a throw that is contested by Brooks.
At 5 feet 11 inches, Terrence Brooks is slightly shorter than the typical Free Safeties that GMs are looking for today. However, Brooks is fast. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the combine. That was the fastest time for a Safety in this year’s draft class. That speed allows Brooks to have tremendous range as well as the ability to recover from a mistake in coverage. The biggest drawback for Terrence Brooks is his lack of experience. He played two years as a backup Cornerback and two years as a Free Safety.
During the preseason look at Terrence Brooks’ ability to cover a TE running up the seam or provide coverage up top as a cover 1 or cover 2 Free Safety. Here’s what to watch for when Brooks lines up as a cover 2 Free Safety
- Watch what the #1 WR does at the snap. If he releases vertically, it is a pass. If he immediately goes for the block, it is a run. Watch Brooks during the passing play, he should be at the top of the numbers 15 yards away watching the QB.
- The ability to help out the Cornerback. In a cover 2, the Cornerback is going to take outside leverage and push the WR towards the Safety. Look for Brooks to keep the receiver in front of him .
- The ability to cover a Tight End running up the seam. This is where the Tight End takes a vertical release and then breaks towards the middle of the field sometimes boxing out defenders.
Brooks has the ability to line up against a Tight End and provide man coverage. Expect Brooks to play against the number two or three Tight Ends:
- Vance McDonald or Derek Carrier for the 49ers
- James Hanna or Jordan Najvar for the Cowboys
- Logan Paulsen or Niles Paul of the Redskins
- Benjamin Watson or Josh Hill of the Saints
For the rest of the season, expect Brooks to be a Special Teams player and the number two or three Safety on the depth chart with Darian Stewart as the starting Free Safety.