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Film Study: How does Craig Mager fit with the Chargers?

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A lot has been made of the Chargers selecting Craig Mager in the 3rd round of this year’s draft and while most question the spot he was drafted there is no question the Chargers front office see something in this kid to warrant drafting him that high.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Texas State CB Craig Mager’s backstory proves he’s a high character guy that has had to overcome a lot in his life to be where he is today.  His mother passed away when he was 15 and because his father wasn’t in his life he was forced to move into his grandmother’s house and help raise his younger sisters.  Mager elected to go to Texas State because it was so close to his house and started every game the four years he was there.

After grabbing a hold of the starting corner spot and not letting go, Mager finished last season with 63 tackles, 13 passed defended and 3 interceptions and was elected Second Team All-Sun Belt honors.  While mostly coveted as an undrafted free agent, Mager upped his draft stock with an impressive showing at the East-West Shrine game, catching the eye of the Chargers coaching staff.

Coming back to the ball

Craig Mager has the NFL size at 5’11/201 as well as the speed; he ran a 4.44 40-time at the Combine.  Even though he’s got good speed he doesn’t always play that quick on the field.  Up the sideline Mager has issues keeping up with the speedy wide receivers and is susceptible to getting beat over the top.  Where he does show his quickness is when you get him going downhill and coming back to the football.  He plays with aggression and his closing speed helps him bat down oncoming passes.

This is where Mager excels, here he is playing "Press Man" and he is coming into the right of your screen.  He gets physical with the receiver and plays the catch, ripping the ball out for an incomplete pass.

The wide receiver runs a simple curl route and as he is trying to bring the ball back into his body, Mager  closes fast and is able to punch the ball out.

 

Once the quarterback leaves the pocket, it’s a broken play and the wide receiver works his way back to the quarterback trying to make the catch on the sideline.  At the top of the receiver’s route he chops his feet turns around and Mager is completely out of the frame.  If the quarterbacks timing hadn’t been disrupted that’s a first but once he does find the receiver coming back, Mager is able to recover and make up ground on the late throw, forcing him out of bounds.

 

Asset in the run game

The part of Mager’s game you like is his sound tackling and willingness to be a force in the run game.  He really comes into his own when he’s asked to contribute in run support and plays his angles well.  Mager has a powerful base and very good technique.  Here he’s able to side step the block of the oncoming tight end and then squares up and drives the running back to the ground.

 

He’s on the other side and again able to set the edge.  He uses a jab to the tight end’s chest to create separation and is able to get a tackle for a loss on the play.

 

Ball is in the air

Another impressive stat from the Combine, other than his 40-time, was the broad jump which Mager got 10'10", good for third highest among cornerbacks.  His leaping ability comes in handy when faced against taller receivers and having to go up for the 50/50 ball.  Mager’s timing in the air is above average but his strong hands again help him recover.  Here he’s able to stick with his over the top position and deflect the ball away.

 

Lyin’ Eyes

"There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes."  Mager’s aggressiveness in the run game is a commodity; his aggressiveness in coverage leaves him vulnerable to the play action fake.  He is deficient in his eye discipline causing him to over-commit and give up big plays.  This is a goal line situation and Mager’s eyes are in the backfield not on his man giving up an easy TD.

 

That’s bad, sure but then in the fourth quarter of the same game Navy runs almost the same play design to the opposite side (where Mager is) and catches him with his hand in the cookie jar again resulting in another TD. He was caught ball watching twice in the same game for two touchdowns.

Where Craig Mager fits

Craig Mager will have a role carved out on special teams because of his speed and sound tackling. At Texas State he was asked to play all over the field, not just on the outside, so I think he can at least provide a camp battle with Patrick Robinson as a slot corner. Since he has had problems keeping up with quicker receivers down the sideline it may be best to get him running more east to west with opposing slot receivers.

Mager is probably better suited in nickel packages right now because of his willingness to contribute in run support.  He was also used to blitz off the edge quite regularly so he could add some versatility from that spot as well.  A scenario I like in a couple seasons down the road, is the idea of Mager running with receivers in the middle of the field and playing the wide receivers pocket and while they try to secure the catch, Denzel Perryman is waiting over the middle for the big hit, could be a good combo that most receivers would like to stay away from.

At the end of the day, he’s going to need a lot of coaching up especially refining his technique and also some work on his eye level but he does have some tools worth building on in the next few years, let’s hope he can put it all together.