When Brandon Staley was hired by the Chargers following the 2020 season, he was set to bring with him a defensive philosophy much different from what the team ran for four years under Gus Bradley.
Instead of running Cover 3 into oblivion, the Chargers were switching to more of a Cover 2 shell with a lot more man concepts. That was, of course, on top of switching the defensive front from a 4-3 front to a 3-4.
In the 2021 draft, you saw Staley and company start investing into their system by selecting Asante Samuel Jr., one of the class’ top man coverage corners. Samuel being paired with the likes of Chris Harris, one of the best corners over the past decade with the Broncos who ran a similar system in Denver, seemed to be a really ideal fit. Add in the uber-athletic Michael Davis who seemingly has the traits to play man coverage, as well, despite being quite impactful as a zone defender and you have yourself what should be a pretty good trio of corners.
Well...not many of those positive expectations came to fruition. Samuel missed a good chunk of time to a pair of concussions and both Harris and Davis had two of the worst seasons of their respective careers, per Pro Football Focus’ grading system.
All of that above is just a long-winded way of stating that the Chargers need help at the cornerback position and this draft class is a great place to start. That’s why today, we’re taking a look at a terrific player in Washington’s shutdown corner, Trent McDuffie.
For starters, just tale a look at the graphic below. Per PFF, McDuffie allowed just 111 yards and 16 receptions in coverage during his final collegiate season, which is good for the lowest number allowed by a Pac-12 cornerback since the 2014 season. Surprisingly, McDuffie failed to record an interception this season, finishing with just 35 tackles, four for loss, a single sack, and six pass breakups. Still, it was good enough to earn him First-Team All-Pac 12 honors and a nod to the All-American Third Team by the Associated Press.
Trent McDuffie only allowed 111 yards in coverage in 2021...— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 23, 2022
Lowest number by a Pac-12 CB since 2014 (min 215 coverage snaps) pic.twitter.com/xz4uuoK7ze
In his previous two seasons at Washington, McDuffie combined to record 59 tackles, two interceptions, two pass breakups, three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries across 16 total games played. He was named a Second-Team All-Pac 12 member following the abbreviated 2020 season.
Trent McDuffie is CB__ in the Draft pic.twitter.com/Rexb3nyphU— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 21, 2022
According to PFF’s Trevor Sikkema who wrote a marvelous piece on McDuffie in January, here the corner’s ranks among all corners from the Pac-12 this past season:
While it’s understandable to want more production in the interception department, McDuffie’s numbers in coverage speak for themselves. He was spectacular in 2021, ranking first in PFF coverage grade, completion percentage allowed, and yards per coverage snap allowed. He also allowed the second-lowest passer rating and finished fourth in the conference with a 16.7 percent forced incompletion rate.
Per The Draft Network’s Drae Harris, McDuffie is an extremely versatile defender with the ability to play inside or out in any defensive scheme. As a man corner, McDuffie excels in the short to intermediate area of the field where his elite quickness and instincts allow him to stay in the hip pocket of the receiver.
As a run defender, Harris says that McDuffie “is an aggressive run defender who seemingly relishes the physical aspect of the football game.” His eagerness to mix it up in the run game was a big boost for a team already known to be stout against opposing rushing attacks.
Something about these Washington defensive backs! They all play the game the right way.— Derrick (@Steelers_DB) February 28, 2022
Love the hustle here from Trent McDuffie. pic.twitter.com/rt2EAiQpWQ
At 5’11 and 195 pounds, his frame will keep analysts and scouts sitting on the fence of whether or not he’s got the ideal size for a big-time cornerback prospect. But, it’s 2022. This archaic idea of how much size matters in the current is a bit outdated nowadays. If you are a dog on the field, it doesn’t matter what your shortcomings are. The NFL is about getting the job done, no matter what. When the job gets done, a player doesn’t get extra brownie points for doing it while they’re a little bit taller or heavier.
So tl;dr, let’s not worry about the size of McDuffie. He’s going to come through for whichever team he lands on.