Slot Corner

Posted: January 17th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 36 Comments »

Recently I wrote about the idea that the Eagles could target someone in the draft as a slot corner.  That was based on Greg Cosell’s comments about the growing importance of the position.  Let’s talk about this situation a bit more.

The slot corner in recent years was Joselio “MmmBop” Hanson.  He was very good at the job.  This year the Eagles tried to work DRC into that role because they wanted him on the field.  DRC struggled initially.  As Hanson explained, it takes time to get used to playing on the inside.

Receivers lined up in the slot have a 2-way go, meaning they can go left or right.  On the outside, the sideline acts as an extra defender and that limits what receivers can do.  CBs can affect things greatly by simply lining up a certain way.  That’s not as true in the slot.  The slot guy can take an inside position, but if the receiver wanted to release outside anyway, he’s going to get off the ball cleanly and have the defender beaten easily.  You really need to play head up on the receiver when playing in the slot.

This requires quickness and agility.  It also helps to be compact.  Most slot guys are 5’10 and not 6’2 for a reason.  That works for receivers as well as DBs.  Wes Welker is dynamic in the slot, while Randy Moss would be far less productive.  Quickness is far more important than speed when working the middle of the field.

The pass routes are shorter.  That means there isn’t time to use speed to get separation.  Receivers must run crisp routes and use quick cuts to try and get separaction.  DBs then must also be quick so that they can deal with those types of routes and cuts.  DRC can use his recovery speed when out in the open, but not in the slot.  There isn’t enough time.

As we see slot receivers getting better and better each year, there is a need for slot corners to get better as well.  Hanson will be 31 by the time the 2012 season starts.  While he’s done well in the past, you could see his struggles vs Welker this year.  Wes is the best so I don’t expect Hanson to shut him down, but Wes got really good separation a few times.  Hanson won’t be getting any faster/quicker.

The Eagles could use an upgrade.  The key here is to understand that this isn’t as simple as saying “get a good CB”.  Not everyone can play in the slot.  Ideally you’d get a guy about 5’11, but just being that size doesn’t mean you fit the job any more than being big means you can’t do it.

One player I’ve mentioned is Brandon Boykin from Georiga.  They played him in the slot a lot this year.  He knows what he’s doing.  Boykin has terrific speed, but is also quick enough to be effective in tight spaces.  He understands the routes that are being run and how to defend them.

The slot guy also should be a good hitter, tackler, and blitzer.  Playing inside means that you will see more action on run plays.  Asante Samuel would have never worked in the slot.  The guy doesn’t have to be Ronnie Lott, but he must be willing to stick his nose into a crowd on run plays.  As for blitzing, that is less critical, but can be a big help.  Remember Antoine Winfield in last year’s Tuesday Night game?  He was blitzing from the slot and we had no answer for him.  He made a huge difference in that game.

The Eagles do have a player in Brandon Hughes that is already on the roster and who could be a good slot guy.  He lists at 5’11, 188.  He’s 25 years old.  Hughes is a good press cover guy.  He will hit and tackle.  Terrific gunner on the punt coverage units.  He played some in the slot in the summer and season.  I think the coaches will get him a ton of work in the slot this off-season in hopes that he can handle that job in 2012.  Hanson is still in place and will get some work.

Curtis Marsh is an outside guy from what I’ve seen.  He played some in the slot at Utah State, but with his size and speed, I think his best spot is at CB.  If he plays well enough, the Eagles could put him at RCB in some sets and move Nnamdi to the slot.  Nnamdi is a big guy, but is so gifted that he can play anywhere.  Yes, he had some struggles in 2011, but I think that was from so much change.  He’s got a full season under his belt now and will have the offseason to really get comfortable with things.  I’m not saying Nnamdi should regularly play the slot, but moving him there in certain situations would be wise.

The Eagles should only take a slot corner early in the draft under certain circumstances.  If the player has RS ability, go get him.  That player will fill multiple roles.  If the guy is very talented and can play CB as well as the slot, then go for him early (2nd or 3rd round).  The Eagles have a good young CB in DRC.  They have a good older CB in Nnamdi.  Marsh showed good ability last summer and is expected to be a big help in 2012.  There isn’t a need for a CB unless the guy can help in the slot or is simply too good to pass up.

* * * * *

Q&A Stuff

Someone asked about what Andy Reid does on gamedays since he doesn’t call plays.  For those fans that are younger or new to the game, this is a legit question.  The head coach runs the team on gameday.  He has to decide whether the team should go for it on 4th/1 and things like that.  Do you punt or kick a FG when at the 35?  Those are head coach decisions.

The coach listens to the playcalls in his headset.  He knows what the offense and defense are doing.  The coach will make recommendations if he feels strongly about something.  He might tell the offense to run to the right side or tell the defense to be on the lookout for a deep ball…stuff like that.

In the last several years Reid has become much more active with players on the sidelines.  He will chew out guys that are making mistakes.  He will also talk to players to find out what’s happening on the field.  You will see him pull aside someone and just ask them why something specific happened.

Is Luke Kuechly a 3-down LB?  If no, is he worth pick 15?  Interesting question.  Luke has pretty good cover skills for a MLB.  He’s not going to run all over the field with Jimmy Graham, but Luke can read the QB and jump routes effectively.  He also can play the run well in Nickel and Dime sets.  That’s important.  You don’t want just cover guys out there.  Must have LBs than can handle draw plays.

We know Keenan Clayton should be one Nickel LB next year.  The other spot is up for grabs.  Could be Casey.  Could be a new guy we bring in at MLB or OLB.

What happened with RBs in the passing game in 2011?  Good question.  Shady only caught 48 passes.  I don’t know if Mudd’s blocking scheme hurt our ability to throw screen passes.  Maybe we just got away from them for another reason.  Shady is a good pass catcher.  We still are a good screen team.  I’ve said this before, but I think you can make a case that Andy Reid is the best screen coach in the history of the NFL.  Very, very creative.  Maybe we ran a ton of them in 2010 and we intentionally cut down.  I don’t know what happened, but we did throw less to RBs.  I like RBs being involved in the passing game, but I don’t think we went too far away from them in 2011.  I think making sure TEs are involved is more critical.

* * * * *

New edition of MAQB was posted yesterday.  Be sure to check it out.  Gimpy had some interesting thoughts, including the “Matt theory”.

36 Comments on “Slot Corner”

  1. 1 Kevin Huitt said at 12:56 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Boykin would be outstanding. Would also give the Birds a great weapon in the return game. Was dynamic at Georgia

  2. 2 R G said at 2:23 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    I love Boykin! Definitely one of the most underrated players in the SEC. The Outback Bowl was a coming out party for the rest of the nation to see how good he is. I loved Javier Arenas at Alabama and he might be better.

    A good sleeper for that position might be Casey Heyward CB, Vanderbilt. Good balls skills and solid tackler.

    Ive said it 50 times but I would take a flier on Janzen Jackson S Mcneese State if he declares for the draft. He was a difference maker at UT before he got booted from the team.

    Besides CB, Danny Trevathan LB, Kentucky might be more underrated than Boykin. Kentucky football is hard to watch, however when you do watch, Trevathan is in on every freaking tackle. I don’t know how his talent translates to the NFL but he is fun to watch. I can’t wait to read Tommy’s scouting report on him. I would be curious to see what his draft coverage he would have if he went to some place like LSU or Alabama.

  3. 3 Kristopher Cebula said at 1:27 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    tommy, maybe it is just me but it seemed like we ran more screens to tight ends and receivers than we have in past years. could this have led to less screens to shady? do you think the increase in carries for shady (around 65 more carries) had the coaches calling less passes his way to protect him and keep him fresh? Also, with brent celek’s re-emergence in the passing game, do you think that may have cut back on some checkdown’s to shady as well?

  4. 4 Mac said at 1:59 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    If I remember correctly Andy and Marty used to call the screen pass part of the running game as a way of pointing out that they had a “balanced” attack.

    I really appreciated the WR and TE screens this year. I am hoping that we get to see a return to ball control offense next season.

  5. 5 Kristopher Cebula said at 4:49 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    i definitely think that there were less called passes to shady to keep his touches under control. i still think that celek coming on later in the year may have taken a few passes from shady too. some of the check downs shady saw last year, may have went to celek

  6. 6 Jeppe Elmelund van Ee said at 1:49 PM on January 17th, 2012:


    What measurables should I look at to get a feel for a players quickness? Is there some drill at the combine or something like that? And does top guys in that drill translate to being good slot cbs?

    Can you mention some of your favorite slot corners in the NFL? And is there someone that Boykin reminds you of?

    How do you feel about Omar Bolden from Arizona state who is about 5-10 and 195 lbs? He could be a late round guy if we don’t want to spend a 2nd rounder on Boykin (or some other CB)

  7. 7 Kammich said at 3:47 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    The 3-cone and short shuttle drills are usually a pretty good indicator of a player’s short-area quickness.

  8. 8 Anonymous said at 8:53 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Kammich is correct on the drills.

    Favorite slot guy? Maybe DJ Moore of the Bears. Very instinctive playmaker. Had 4 INTs, 4 TFLs, 1 sack in 2010. Had 4 INTs this year.

    Not sure about comparing Boykin yet. Need to do more tape study before I know him inside-out.

    Bolden tore his ACL and missed the year. Have to go back and re-watch old tape of him when I get a chance.

  9. 9 Kammich said at 12:14 AM on January 18th, 2012:

    And Moore was, like Boykin, an offensive and special teams weapon for Vanderbilt as well. I liked Moore a lot coming out of the draft, but he got off to a slow start to his career. Late bloomer who has really developed nicely.

  10. 10 Anonymous said at 4:22 AM on January 18th, 2012:

    How many times did you cry this year when New England played “pick a position, any position” this year and still shit on us?

  11. 11 Anonymous said at 2:26 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Shady had 273 carries and 48 receptions (not sure on attempts) for 321 total touches. Those 273 carries are under the 300 mark, but total touches is still over. A Gore or a Turner can take 300+ carries, but Shady is not hat kind of back. His running style is shifty and elusive. He is made of slippery. I think the coaches were trying not to run McCoy into the ground. He did end the season hurt. Also, since the running game worked so well, screens were not as necessary.

  12. 12 Anonymous said at 3:07 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Mike Nolan to the Falcons as D.C.

    So it seems to be New Orleans or Philly for Spags.

  13. 13 Anonymous said at 3:19 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Just saw that Spags interviewed in Indy yesterday. Guess it is still a 3 team race

  14. 14 Anonymous said at 3:34 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    I don’t know what is going on with Spags. DC in Indy? That would make no sense whatsoever. Maybe he was really there as a HC interview, but since Caldwell hadn’t been fired they couldn’t call it that.

  15. 15 Kammich said at 3:47 PM on January 17th, 2012:


  16. 16 Kristopher Cebula said at 4:45 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    caldwell is out

  17. 17 Anonymous said at 4:52 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Something doesn’t feel right here! If Spags chooses Indy it will be as HC and the Colts fanbase will be scratching their heads! I can’t see it myself – to be fired from a 2-14 team to go work for another one would probably be a first.

  18. 18 Kammich said at 5:34 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Oddly enough, John Fox pulled a very similar move just this past offseason leaving Carolina for Denver. Strange, but not unprecedented.

  19. 19 ike said at 6:22 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    With success, too

    Though Fox came to Denver with a pretty good track record. Not so much for Spags.

  20. 20 Anonymous said at 3:13 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Kulechy/Boykin/Sanu should be our first three picks!!!
    If we get a third second for Asante I would take Danny Trevathan or Bobby Wagner to compete for SAM or WILL. I don’t think either of these guys will make it to the 3rd or if they do, not down to the Eagles pick.

  21. 21 James Coe said at 4:31 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    I really like Travis Lewis to compete for OLB and he should be available when the Eagles pick in the 3rd.

  22. 22 Kammich said at 4:03 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    I’m bummed out. I got to go to the East/West Shrine Game last year because it was played about 10 minutes from where I’m crashing. It was such a low-key, open environment that I really had a good time. Got to chat with Mike Mayock and Lindsay Soto, as well as a bunch of players(Tyrod Taylor, Shiloh Keo, Pat Devlin, Graig Cooper, a few others).

    I was all prepped to go again this year, only to discover that they’ve moved it to St. Petersburg this year. Blasphemy! I guess I’ll just have to tune in to the NFL Network.

  23. 23 Anonymous said at 5:20 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Why would Spags want to return to Philly — couldn’t he be feeling it’s a step backward psychologically? He was a position coach here and moved to the Giants as DC and then StL as HC. Coming back here may not be like coming “home.” Plus, he could be gone after next season.

    If he goes to Indy, either he’s the new HC. Or DC with lots of rope. Caldwell’s departure and Spags interview may explain why Spags was in no hurry to come here.

    Anyway, I’m not optimistic about Spags returning to Philly. And I kinda get why he wouldn’t return.

    Eagles should have hired Bears DB coach Hoke last year when they had the chance (unless Hoke said “no” — which doesn’t bode well for this year either if JC’s on his way out).

  24. 24 Anonymous said at 9:39 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    It’s definitely weird that he interviewed with Caldwell, then the next day they fired Caldwell. Maybe he *really* nailed the interview.

    At least if Spags goes HC it will get the Eagles off the hook for not getting him and bringing Juan back.

  25. 25 Anonymous said at 5:43 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Jim Caldwell joins a pretty exclusive group with his firing: HCs fired within two seasons of taking his team to the SB and losing.

    1. Don McCafferty – Colts (’70 SB / fired 7 games into the ’72 season)
    2. Ray Malavasi – Rams (’79 SB / fired after the ’81 season)
    3. Bill Callahan – Oakland (’02 SB / ’03 firing — ONLY COACH W/ THAT DISTINCTION)

    There have been 45 losing SB coaches by season (some repeats like Bud Grant (4), Marv Levy (4), Dan Reeves (4), Landy (3), Holmgren (1-2).

    But, still, Caldwell’s firing puts him in some forgettable company.

  26. 26 ike said at 5:48 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Speaking of bad news . . . Alabama CB Dre Kirkpatrick was busted for possession of pot today.

    Projected as an easy top-10 pick as a big shut-down corner.

    Maybe he’ll slide to the Eagles . . . who choose him and erase Rhodes’ decision to pass on Warren Sapp for Mike Mamula.

    (I know CB’s not a “need”. But I’d argue that in terms of relative value, he’s worth more at 15 than Kuechly.)

  27. 27 Anonymous said at 5:51 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    CB pick in the 1st wouldn’t surprise me at all, and wouldn’t upset me either. I think that there is a good range of talent that can be had with the team’s first 3 picks.

  28. 28 Joe Malone said at 11:00 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    If he falls that far Dallas will most surely take him

  29. 29 Anonymous said at 6:04 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Here’s a NEWS FLASH:

    Raiders to interview Marty Mrnhinweg!

    Story here:

  30. 30 Anonymous said at 9:30 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    What the hell are the Raiders doing? I mean that more as a slap at them than Marty.

    Would be very interesting if MM left. Nobody would find it devastating, yet he’s been behind some offenses that can really gain yards with the best of ’em.

  31. 31 Mac said at 10:24 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Man that would ruin my prediction that Marty was headed for Miami. Oh well….

  32. 32 ike said at 6:11 PM on January 17th, 2012:


    If Spagnuolo goes to the Saints (or Colts) . . . is Juan Castillo safe as the D-C for next season?

    Who’s out there now with Nolan gone and Spags looking gone, besides position coaches?

  33. 33 Kristopher Cebula said at 6:20 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Adam Shefter says spags interviewing with saints on Wednesday

  34. 34 Anonymous said at 6:31 PM on January 17th, 2012:

    Not sure Hughes has the hips for slot, always looked a little stiff to me, otherwise he’s perfect.
    I think unless they find someone who can play CB and return, they won’t look at a CB before the 3rd round, with Marsh on the roster, it’s a bit of a luxury even if they move Asante.

    Slot CBs can be found later in the draft, a guy who is 5’10 190 lbs but runs 4.60 is not going in the top 100, but could be perfect in the slot where he has safeties behind him and can play the receiver aggressively if he has good quickness, if Asante was physical like Flowers, he’d be the uber slot CB.

    Kuechly – if he’s not going to be a good 3 down LB, he’s not worth a first round pick. You can get good run stoppers who are adequate against the pass and pull them on passing downs later in the draft or in free agency. If I use a top 50 pick on a LB, I want someone who stays on the field and makes plays. Tulloch is a good example of what you can find later in the draft.

    I thought there were two problems
    1) teams were reading our RB screens before they developed, we caught people with TE screens, wonder if there was some tipoff from the young OL?
    2) McCoy was lousy, struggled as a pass blocker, and didn’t look natural catching the ball. Of course, we’re spoiled by Westbrook (and Duce before him) but the Eagle offense, like the Saint offense, depends on the RB making plays in the passing game. Pierre Thomas had almost as many throws as McCoy, and he’s the running running back. McCoy should average close to 10 yards a catch given his open field running abilities, but he must learn to catch naturally and instantly transition to a RB, instead of having to stop and look the ball into his hands.

    No WCO FB, no big back who can catch. This is why they stashed Havili I hope, since I doubt he’ll ever block as well as Schmitt, who’ll never be confused with Leach. But a big back who can pass block and be a credible receiver out of the backfield is nice to have on obvious passing downs (or just put Harbor in the backfield).

  35. 35 Anonymous said at 4:28 AM on January 18th, 2012:

    I have the same concerns with hughes lack of fluidity. Glad someone else sees it too.

  36. 36 Anonymous said at 8:30 AM on January 18th, 2012:

    Wow, I’m impressed that in the two games where Hughes actually got to play any significant time people paid enough attention to him getting out of his back pedal to notice his hips weren’t fluid. The only thing I noticed was that he’s actually a pretty physical guy for is size. Guess I’ll have to go back and watch the re-wind to see if he really is that stiff.