I am embarrassed.
Just looking back through who I've written about this past season and none of them was the best player on the team last year. No, not the QB. The CB. I'm glad we've linked a few different articles from non-Charger writers/fans so you can get the idea that Jason Verrett is really friggin' good. Maybe not on an NFL Network/ESPN/National Media level. But the diehards know. For now, that's good enough.
What makes Verrett so good? His speed? Quickness? That's what I'll cover. I'll show you four plays from last year that'll help all of us get a better feel for why he is so friggin' good and let you know why said plays make him one of the very best players at his position.
Nobody behind you!
What separates the Darrell Revis' in his prime from the average NFL CB is that the truly top notch corners do not get beat deep. Period. Yes, they give up a slant or a comeback, but when challenged vertically, they erase the receiver. That's what Verrett does.
Week 13: Versus Emmanuel Sanders: The double move
It's 1st and 10, and the Broncos are trying to take a shot. They run play-action and try to catch the Chargers vulnerable. It's actually the perfect coverage. There is no safety help. There is a double move on. Denver leaves seven people in to block. Surely this will be a big play, right? Let's take a look at the play.
JV vs Manny 1 pic.twitter.com/DjiXULVhag— Coach McCoy (@BFTBclips) July 19, 2016
What makes this play so impressive is that Verrett never panicked. I'd venture to guess 95% of corners are burnt toast here or would have to grab the receiver to prevent them from running by them. What usually happens is right when Sanders goes break on his initial route, your feet get too wide and once the 2nd move comes you're all out of whack and don't have a shot to cover the double move. Verrett doesn't flinch. Unlike most CBs here, his feet stay within his frame. The change of direction there is silly. In 3 steps he goes from being beaten to not only recovering but stride for stride with the receiver. Impressive stuff there from Verrett. But it's not just athleticism; it's technique.
In the 1st clip, I talk about how he runs to the upfield shoulder of the receiver. By doing that he "squeezes" the receiver to the sideline. That way if the throw is accurate, Verrett is the only person who can make a play on the pass. That's exactly what happens.
Finally, in the second clip, we see the value of when you look back for the ball. We as fans always complained about numerous Charger DBs over the years and why they never looked back. You can't look back when you're beaten because all that will do is slow you down and leave a bigger gap between you and the receiver. Verrett waits until he is "in phase" to look back for the ball.
From start to finish this is a clinic that I would show high-schoolers. Natural athleticism is on full display, but the technique and patience Verrett exhibits throughout the play is why speedy receivers just are not a threat to him, which is rare in this league.
Winning at the line of scrimmage
Patience. Patience. Patience. It's soooo much easier said than done. Asking a corner not to fall for an initial move/head fake by a receiver that has already established the full route tree in a game is like asking me to go to happy hour where it's 2-for-1 and only order one drink. It just doesn't happen.
Week 7 versus Amari Cooper: The back shoulder fade
It's 2nd and long. Oakland is trying to get into 3rd and manageable by throwing 1 of the higher percentage throws you can make, a back shoulder fade. One false step by the CB and he loses the route. There are plenty of times when the CB does nothing wrong, yet the WR still completes the catch. In this case, Verrett's technique trumps all.
You see it at every level. A corner taking the wrong 1st step and can never recover. The 1000's of reps to instill muscle memory and drills you have to do to get a player to not move their feet until the receiver takes their 2nd step is endless.
JV vs Amari pic.twitter.com/eLZS4pYaue— Coach McCoy (@BFTBclips) July 19, 2016
Verrett doesn't flinch at Coopers jab step. Because of this, he is in position to get a quick jam to throw Cooper off of his route just enough to where he cannot get in position and shield him from the pass. That split second of Verrett not taking the false step sets the tone for the entire play. Fantastic job at the top of the route to read Cooper's eyes and look back at the ball. His athleticism allows him to make the play on the ball, but it's the technique at the beginning of the play that puts Verrett in position to finish.
In each route highlighted Verrett had impeded both of the receivers progress. One of Verrett's very best traits is that he is physical. I know, I know. 5'9 190-pound corner physical? That's him. You don't have to jam the receiver into the opposing teams bench to be physical. It can be as simple as throwing off the timing of the route. Verrett does that a handful of times a game. It's what makes him so special.
Week 5 versus Antonio Brown: The out route
It's 2nd and 7. The Steelers do their quick play-action they always run to sucker the linebackers up which in turn allows them to throw any underneath route without having to worry about the threat of a hang/flat defender intercepting the pass. Brown is 1 of the premier route runners in the league. Unlike most out routes, he takes an inside release. This is to get defender thinking he is breaking inside hoping he overcommits. Then once he gets to the top of the route, he breaks hard towards the sideline.
Verrett was not having it.
On four separate occasions in this route, Verrett was able to "stab" Brown perfectly in the chest to reroute him. Verrett is agile like a leopard and will not pester you like a gnat. Watching him flip his hips like that while continuing to jam Brown and keep his eye on the ball is football bliss. He is incredibly unique.
One more route against Brown. This time, it's a slant. Another 1-on-1 situation. This time, it's 3rd and 8. So we've seen patience, we've seen the jam, you'll still see that. This time, you see that leopard like quickness as he jumps in front of Brown to knock the pass away.
JV vs AB pic.twitter.com/2cbMt2JyXw— Coach McCoy (@BFTBclips) July 19, 2016
What we see here is how a simple jam goes a long ways in winning the route. Yes, it helps to have a burst like you just ran over a star in Mario Kart, but Verrett won the route long before the pass was in the air.
What to expect in 2016
He's physical, fast, agile, and aware. His ability to play multiple coverages and willingness in the run game make him a great player, but it's Verrett's consistency in his technique that makes him special and separates him from the pack. Here is the 1st half of the season for the budding star: Jeremy Maclin, Allen Robinson, the Saints high scoring offense, Amari Cooper, Emmanuel Sanders/Demaryius Thomas x 2, Julio Jones. We'll find out pretty quickly if he's ready to put him in the category that you and I think he should be in.