I spent a lot of last night and this morning watching Jairus Byrd. I wanted to get as good a feel for him as possible. And I think I did.
Let’s start with the basic facts:
Age 27 … will turn 28 in October
5 years in the NFL
Didn’t miss a game from 2010-2012
Missed 5 games in 2013. Had a foot issue, but also was objecting to the use of the franchise tag.
22 career INTs
11 career FFs
33 career pass deflections
10 career TFLs
3 career sacks
260 career tackles
Played CB at Oregon from 2006-08. Left a year early for the NFL. Ran poorly (4.6 range) so he was moved to S.
Byrd is a good Safety. He has outstanding cover skills and really impacts the passing game, but he is only an average hitter, tackler and run defender.
The Bills mostly had Byrd line up as the deep Safety. That’s where he is most effective. He doesn’t have ideal speed so staying deep and being able to read plays helps him to get to the ball. Byrd sees the field well and has good instincts. He has excellent feet and a very quick burst. Byrd has great ball skills. He is able to go over or around receivers and make a play on the ball without drawing a flag.
Byrd is more of a natural centerfielder than a man-to-man cover guy. He loves to watch the QB and jump routes. Byrd gets into proper position to play the ball even before the QB releases the ball. Veteran QBs know this and will avoid throwing his way. Byrd had 4 INTs in 2013 and 3 of them came off rookie QBs. The other INT was a deep ball thrown by Ben Roethlisberger. He made a poor decision and Byrd made him pay for that.
Byrd is not a physical player. There were plays in 2 games where receivers caught a pass inside the 10-yard line, got hit by Byrd, and still scored a TD. One of the players was Jimmy Graham so that’s somewhat understandable. The other player was Falcons slot receiver Harry Douglas. Byrd tried to land a big hit on him instead of wrapping up. The hit wasn’t hard and Douglas shrugged it off and scored the TD.
There were a couple of other plays in the Falcons game that bothered me. They had TD runs of 27 and 38 yards. Byrd was playing back off the ball on both runs. He didn’t get anywhere close to making a tackle on either play. One of the benefits to keeping the FS that far back is that he generally will keep plays in front of him. Byrd’s lack of speed kept him from even getting close enough to the runners to dive at them.
Byrd isn’t a hesitant tackler. He does generally wrap-up his targets. The problem is that he’s not forceful. To put it in football terms, he runs to the target and not through the target. He will miss some occasional tackles in space. Byrd isn’t the most active run defender on inside runs. He generally stays back to see if the RB leaks out.
If you are looking for a FS to sit in the deep middle and play the ball, Jairus Byrd is your man. QBs fear him and hesitate before throwing in his direction. When they do, he’s able to make a decent number of plays. And you do wonder if playing on a winning team would help his numbers. If he’s sitting back in centerfield and the other QB has to throw due to trailing in the game, Byrd might thrive. The Bills haven’t finished better than 6-10 during his career.
Is Byrd the right man for the Eagles? That’s a tough question. Chip Kelly loves turnovers so he might strongly push for a FS that has great ball skills. At the same time, Bill Davis loves to have his DBs keep plays in front of them and then attack. Byrd can do that, but might not be as good a tackler as Davis would prefer. The Eagles were hurt time and again by sloppy tackling on 3rd and long situations in 2013.
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Some of you objected to the fact I didn’t call Byrd “great” in a previous post. Please understand that I choose my words carefully. I think the word great is thrown around far too casually in sports (and by society in general). Jairus Byrd has some great elements to his game, but is not a great overall player. You are welcome to have a different opinion, but understand that I’m hesitant to use the word great intentionally.
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While watching Byrd, I also took the time to check out a few other free agents in a less thorough manner. These are incomplete opinions since I didn’t see enough to make a thorough judgment, but figured you would enjoy knowing my initial thoughts.
Malcolm Jenkins – I like him quite a bit. Good man cover skills. Versatile. Physical player.
Chris Clemons – Didn’t stand out to me.
Thomas DeCoud – I was surprised by the fact he looked pretty good in coverage. Bad tackler. I know why they cut him.
Jason Worilds – Didn’t stand out as a pass rusher. Struggled with setting the edge. Surprised to see him cover TEs effectively.
I did not watch any of T.J. Ward. He will be my primary focus tonight. Looking forward to that.