Chris Culliver’s Fit in the Redskins Secondary

Chris Culliver became a free agent this off-season and signed a four year – $32 million contract with $16 million guaranteed with the Washington Redskins. An ACL tear in his third season sidelined him for his entire 2013 campaign, but 2014 represented a very strong year for Culliver. According to ProFootballFocus, Culliver finished sixth in cover snaps per reception and tenth in yards allowed per cover snap out of 73 eligible cornerbacks who played in coverage greater than 50% of the time. Additionally, Culliver only allowed 37 receptions on 73 targets for 468 yards and 4 touchdowns ranking Culliver sixth overall in NFL Passer Rating allowed. Let’s see how Culliver’s skill-set matches the Redskins new 3-4 defense.

Previously I analyzed Stephen Paea’s and Terrance Knighton’s fit in the Redskins front seven. These two additions represent the biggest change when switching from a 3-4 Okie defense to a 3-4 Under defense. However, an underrated aspect of the change is how that defensive alignment changes when pairing with the secondary’s responsibilities.

Under previous defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, the cornerbacks primarilly played off-man coverage and Cover 3 responsibilities in order to maximize the opportunities for turnovers. Unfortunately due to the Redskins inability to get pressure on the opposing quarterback outside of stud outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and oft-injured defensive lineman Jason Hatcher, the Redskins secondary was exposed to blown coverages. In the 3-4 Under that Joe Barry is implementing, the secondary responsibilities are changing to more press-man coverage in order to take advantage of the aggressive defensive front seven.

Film Study

The first thing I noticed while watching CB29 Chris Culliver is that he typically played on one-side as right cornerback, and he played a lot of press-man coverage mixing in some Cover 3 zone coverage. In press-man coverage, Culliver played bigger wide receivers well using his recovery speed and hip fluidity to defend the pass, but against speedier receivers he was sometimes left behind especially on double moves when Culliver looks back at the quarterback or doesn’t anticipate the move coming and is allows separation.

Play 1 – Culliver lines up at the bottom of your screen as the right cornerback. In this play he is covering WR19 Ginn in press-man coverage. To start the play Ginn takes his first step inside in which Culliver mirrors, and then takes off on a deep post route. Culliver attempts to bump Ginn, but the receiver continues further inside. Culliver sits on the outside hip of Ginn and mirrors him up the field using his speed to stick to the wide reciever attempting to break free. Excellent job by Culliver and poor throw by the quarterback who does not Ginn far enough to the inside on the post.

Play 2 – Culliver lines up in his usual spot as right CB (top of your screen) and runs press-coverage on WR12 Brown. Brown attempts to run a zig-route, but Culliver sticks to him and doesn’t allow him to escape. Another excellent play by Culliver.

Play 3 – In this play, Culliver plays press-coverage on WR19 Ginn, but Ginn runs a fade route to the front pylon in the endzone. Culliver turns to follow Ginn, but doesn’t locate the ball in time almost allowing the reception. While Ginn didn’t do a good job boxing out Culliver, Culliver needs to turn and locate the ball at the end of the play to shut it to down before it reaches him.

Play 4 Here is another example where Culliver over-runs the route and doesn’t anticipate the move made by his wide receiver.

Play 5 – Culliver is in press-man coverage on WR13 Brown, but his quickness off of the line of scrimmage is what allows him to beat the press and move down field. Additionally, Culliver turns to locate the ball and loses Brown on a double move up top. Fortunately the ball was inaccurately thrown as it could have resulted in a bigger gain on the play.

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Samuel Gold

Sam founded NFL Breakdowns after working his way through the journalist farm system and is enjoying life in the big league. Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., Sam didn’t choose the Redskins, the Redskins chose him. Out of a love for the game and an insatiable curiosity to determine why his beloved team was underperforming, Sam turned to studying film in NFL Breakdowns.