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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
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: