Grantland published an article this week naming their NFL “All-Bad-Contracts” team. One of their two starting cornerbacks was Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen.
The article went on to say “Allen’s four-year, $24.6 million extension from last September seemed very defensible (and even more so in light of the Maxwell-esque deals for corners in free agency), but it almost immediately became a disaster. Allen was burnt badly during the beginning of the season and benched in October before suffering a season-ending thumb injury.”
There was a lot of talk this off-season about the Steelers possibly cutting the 5th year cover man. Personally, I never saw that as a possibility. There was still too much potential in Cortez and too little talent at the position to eat all that dead money.
With the news this week that the Steelers are employing more Cover-2 concepts, I think there was never even a chance of letting Allen go.
I broke down the Cover-2 and Tampa-2 defensive as a whole earlier this week. You can read that here. Keeping that concept in mind, here’s some of the most important traits for a Cover-2 cornerback…
- Jamming – With the corners playing a shallow zone, and the safety having to cover a lot of ground deep. It’s crucial that the cornerback knocks the receiver off his path at the line of scrimmage. Letting a receiver get out of his stance quickly puts too much on the safety.
- Containing – Because the sideline can be the most vulnerable spot in this scheme; containment is the name of the game both against the run and the pass. Cornerbacks have to be extremely physical in the run game especially. If the corner loses containment, it’s going to be a 15 yard gain up the sideline every time. Both in running plays, or in coverage he wants to force the offensive player towards his help from linebackers and safeties to the inside.
- Tackling – Obviously this goes hand in hand with keeping containment. The CB needs to force runners towards the linebackers, but occasionally he’ll have to make a play of his own on the outside. Broken tackles by the corner can mean big gains.
- Zone Technique – Playing a zone, and knowing how to release your man to the next man’s zone. While there is situations in man to man; being a shutdown type of corner isn’t really necessary.
I think that Cortez Allen could fit this scheme really well. One of Allen’s shining moments as a pro was in 2011, as a rookie he was tasked with covering Rob Gronkowski in the slot. Gronk played relatively well with 97 yards on 7 catches, but Cortez did a great job at being physical with him and keeping him out of the endzone.
Allen is strong and athletic for a corner, and has some long arms that are good for jamming at the line. Antoine Winfield and Ronde Barer are two great Cover-2 corners off the top of my head. Both weren’t lockdown corners but were very tough, aggressive boundary defenders.
Playing in this scheme could mask some of Allen’s deficiencies, which seem to be tracking the ball in the air, especially down the field.
Early indications are that Cortez has looked good in camp, grabbing a couple of nice interceptions. Some said he struggled staying with Antonio Brown, but who doesn’t?
Cornerback is a position that can definitely be a roller coaster ride. Ike Taylor is probably the Steelers’ best corner since Rod Woodson, and he was also benched in his career. He bounced back, and I think Cortez Allen will this season.