Why Bring Back Terrence Cody?

Terrence Cody’s career as a Raven began after being selected in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft.  The consensus among local fans is that Cody’s play has been less than stellar to this point.  Regardless, Ozzie Newsome brought Cody back under a 1-year 730k deal.  Does this move make sense?  Can Cody be an impact player?  I looked to his 2013 tape to find out.

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On running downs, the Ravens base defense is the “4-3 Under” which utilizes both 4-3 (1 gap) and 3-4 (2 gap) principles.  Basic 4-3 Under gap control:

The Ravens have a need for 2-gapping defensive lineman as those guys can control blockers in the middle and maintain two gaps with one player.  These types of players often invite double-teams which allows more agile linebackers to fill or scrape toward the ball carrier as necessary.  A good 2-gapping defensive lineman will relieve Ngata of nose tackle duties and allow him to play more of his best role, penetrating 3-technique.  If Cody can fill this role, his roster spot will be worth the re-signing.

Cody’s role in the Ravens 2013 defense was slight.  He played almost exclusively on first down where he provides the most of his minimal value.  Cody generally aligns as a 0- (head up on the center) or 1-technique (between center and guard), but he aligned as far wide as 3-technique.  Cody is asked to 2-gap on the majority of his snaps meaning, put your hands on the chest of the blocker and control both sides of him.  Cody can effectively stand up a center or guard (something he struggled with before 2013) but he doesn’t have the lateral movement necessary to shed his blocker and make tackles.  Additionally, he rarely displaces his blocker into the backfield to impede the runner’s trajectory.  In essence, Cody’s role when 2-gapping is to stalemate his defender.

After several years in the league, Cody has picked up a few tricks  against the run.  His lack of agility keeps him from being effective against outside runs, but if he can keep faster flowing linebackers from being blocked, he can be a significant player:

codyarm1

Cody is aligned in a 2i position, almost head up vs. right guard Dan Connolly (blue). The Patriots are running Inside Zone Weak. In order for Connolly (blue) to scoop to the second level toward LB Jameel McClain, he employs the help of neighboring center Ryan Wendell (red) to double team Cody.

codyarm2

Connolly (blue) has blocked down on Cody but needs to work up to the second level to block the flowing Jameel McClain (#53). Cody, however, is interfering with Connolly by grabbing his outside collar.

codyarm3

Even though Cody's grasp is technically illegal, it allowed McClain (#53) to fill the B-gap without shedding the block of a guard.

Cody is aligned in a 2i position, almost head up vs. right guard Dan Connolly (blue).  The Patriots are running Inside Zone Weak.  In order for Connolly (blue) to scoop to the second level toward LB Jameel McClain, he employs the help of neighboring center Ryan Wendell (red) to double team Cody.Connolly (blue) has blocked down on Cody but needs to work up to the second level to block the flowing Jameel McClain (#53).  Cody, however, is interfering with Connolly by grabbing his outside collar.Even though Cody's grasp is technically illegal, it allowed McClain (#53) to fill the B-gap without shedding the block of a guard.

Cody struggles against outside runs because he is simply too large to continue down the line of scrimmage and hold his gap(s).  But if Cody can selflessly keep two blockers on him, he can open up lanes for play-makers like Daryl Smith and Arthur Brown.  The problem that I have with Cody, is that he doesn’t show the consistent ability to demand double-teams.  He has shown flashes (e.g. the above play) but his poor understanding of leverage hurts him at times:

codydom1

The Ravens are in an "Okie" front with Terrence Cody playing the 0-Tech nose guard position. The Browns are running a play that some refer to as "Duo" (or "Double"). As the name suggests, there are two double-teams at the line of scrimmage. Once the first level defenders are successfully walled off, one of the O-Lineman will work to the second level.

codydom2

As shown here, Cody is being double-teamed by C Alex Mack (brown) and LG John Greco (orange). If Cody can keep Mack (brown) from getting to Daryl Smith (#51), Smith can flow to the weak A-gap and make a tackle.

codydom3

Instead of working through the double-team, Cody gets "dominated" (a term used to describe the turning of a defender's shoulders from parallel to perpendicular to the line of scrimmage). Cody is now effectively eliminated from the play.

codydom4

Now that Cody has been washed out of the play, Mack (brown) can square up on Daryl Smith (#51) to open a lane for HB Willis McGahee to penetrate.

The Ravens are in an "Okie" front with Terrence Cody playing the 0-Tech nose guard position.  The Browns are running a play that some refer to as "Duo" (or "Double").  As the name suggests, there are two double-teams at the line of scrimmage.  Once the first level defenders are successfully walled off, one of the O-Lineman will work to the second level.As shown here, Cody is being double-teamed by C Alex Mack (brown) and LG John Greco (orange).  If Cody can keep Mack (brown) from getting to Daryl Smith (#51), Smith can flow to the weak A-gap and make a tackle.Instead of working through the double-team, Cody gets "dominated" (a term used to describe the turning of a defender's shoulders from parallel to perpendicular to the line of scrimmage).  Cody is now effectively eliminated from the play.Now that Cody has been washed out of the play, Mack (brown) can square up on Daryl Smith (#51) to open a lane for HB Willis McGahee to penetrate.

I think that someone like Cody is an average player who can play the space-eating role at the league average.  If this is his ceiling (as I believe), and he has shown subtle improvements, then I can understand bringing him back under a small contract.  What bothers me is that there is another player on the team who can play Cody’s role much better AND, unlike Cody, can be useful if trapped on the field in a hurry-up situation.  That player is Brandon Williams.

Brandon Williams

Williams was a consensus steal in the third round of the 2013 draft.  Many saw his strength and agility as attributes that make a can’t-miss prospect.  However, Brandon Williams continued his collegiate struggles in one key area, technique:

bwillboom

On this passing play, Williams stands too far upright (1) which minimizes his impact of depressing the Aaron Rodgers’ pocket.  Shortly after, Williams lowers his hips in an attempt to bull through the center Dietrich-Smith.  To use his leverage against him, the center swipes Williams’ hands downward (2).  This led to a predictable result (3).

Although Williams struggled using leverage for the majority of the year, he was the team’s best 2-gapper in the middle.  Williams played the majority of his snaps at nose-tackle during the first two downs and was often tasked with commanding the blocker in front of him in order to play both adjacent gaps:

bwill2gap1

Williams is aligned as a nose-shade against Green Bay's 11 personnel. The Ravens only allocate six men to the box so Rodgers audibles into a HB Dive. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith is responsible for digging Williams out and clearing him from the weak-side A gap.

bwill2gap2

After the snap, Williams engages the center. It appears that Dietrich-Smith is winning due to the hole to his left side. But Williams did not declare and penetrate either gap. Williams was asked to 2-gap.

bwill2gap3

Instead of being washed away from the hole, Williams worked his free hand underneath of Dietrich-Smith to attack the running-back's chosen crease. This movement put Williams in a great position to make a tackle in the inside run game.

Williams is aligned as a nose-shade against Green Bay's 11 personnel.  The Ravens only allocate six men to the box so Rodgers audibles into a HB Dive.  Center Evan Dietrich-Smith is responsible for digging Williams out and clearing him from the weak-side A gap.After the snap, Williams engages the center.  It appears that Dietrich-Smith is winning due to the hole to his left side.  But Williams did not declare and penetrate either gap.  Williams was asked to 2-gap.Instead of being washed away from the hole, Williams worked his free hand underneath of Dietrich-Smith to attack the running-back's chosen crease.  This movement put Williams in a great position to make a tackle in the inside run game.

Williams, like Cody, is more of a run stopper.  Williams will likely not see many pass rush snaps and he lacks the explosive first step to penetrate through the line of scrimmage.  Although his biggest impact on the Ravens defense will be in solidifying the two A-gaps against inside runs, he did make drastic improvements in moving laterally against the zone-blocking scheme too.

Altogether, I think the signing of Terrence Cody is a simply an optimistic gesture.  The Ravens can use him at nose tackle between Ngata and Canty while Williams continues to improve, but I personally doubt that Cody will ever become more than a below-average player.  Cody also does not provide any additional value on Special Teams, which along with zero dead-money associated with release, makes him cut-able.  On the bright side, while Cody is still on the team, the goal-line defensive package does look pretty daunting with >1,000lbs between three players:

beef

 

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About the author


Dan Bryden   

Ravens Analyst

Dan played high school football at Wilde Lake and graduated from McDaniel College with a degree in Psychology. Dan is currently a Maryland Terp working on his PhD degree in Neuroscience. He has experience writing published scientific material as well as blogging for SBNation via Baltimore Beatdown. Beginning in the 2012 season, Dan has been writing about the Ravens focusing on the X’s and O’s of the game of football with heavy use of overhead (All-22) film analysis. The Columbia, MD native currently lives in Silver Spring.


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