Pondering Quentin Jammer as Denver’s matchup safety

Happy Thursday, friends.  As you could probably tell yesterday, I’m pretty fired up about the Broncos' signing of DB Quentin Jammer.  I think it portends to be the acquisition that fills the team's last major hole, which was a defender who can cover a good TE man-to-man.

I could still go for a Dan Koppen-type as a backup interior lineman, but at this point, I’m just getting into luxury items.

Jammer has played corner for the last eleven years, and it’s funny: “Chargers fans” never really liked him that much, because he was a high first-round pick, and he never made enough big plays for their liking.  He was their own Robert Ayers - a pretty good football player who was overdrafted by a round.  To stupid fans who can’t let sunk costs go, and only focus on that which is relevant today, (i.e. what the player brings to the table every Sunday), that is very saddening.

They misused a draft pick 11 years ago!  The horror!

Last night on Twitter, Mike Klis was superficially comparing Jammer and Charles Woodson.

 

A guy like Klis only has the measurables to go on, and comparing the size, age, and number of interceptions of two players only tells a fraction of the story.  Hell, he can't even seem to spell "Quentin" correctly.  

The fact is, indeed, that Woodson is a much more noticeable playmaker.  The primary difference between the two players is that Woodson can catch, and Jammer can’t.  He’s never had good hands, and he’s practically the poster child for the old saying “he plays defense because he can’t catch.”  When it comes to the ability to play man coverage, though, Woodson has fallen off pretty markedly the last few years, and Jammer is only a small step slower than he used to be.

I wouldn’t be too keen on the idea of Jammer trying to run with Torrey Smith or Mike Wallace anymore, and his coverage grade at PFF bears that out, but he can run with any TE in the NFL.  None of them is going to just outrun Jammer, and he’s big and physical enough to bang with them, and fight to try to make plays on the ball.  (Deflections and dropped interceptions, most likely, but those are better than completions.)

The idea of Jammer as a safety is going to be too much for some people, because they don’t understand what’s happening with the position.  The job description is changing.  Smarter teams, with better defenses, are going away from the concept of free safety vs. strong safety.  

The way teams can stress a defense by throwing the ball with multiple TE packages now has changed the nature and priorities of a defensive scheme.  The primary constraint that defenses used to face was defending eight gaps in the run game.  If you could stop the run pretty well, and get to third-and-long, you could get into your sub package and play pass defense.  Now, the big priority is covering four or five capable receivers, while still remaining sound enough to stop the run, particularly when two or more of those receivers are capable blockers.

The John Lynch-type of box safety is practically obsolete.  (That's terrible, because from what I've heard, there's nothing more difficult than growing up in California with the surname "Lynch.")  Only teams that play small up front tend to still favor the big boppers.  Really, they ought to quit playing so small up front, and try to be sound against the run with seven men, so their DBs can be available to cover.

Jammer has the size and physicality to buzz into the box 15-20 times per game as an eighth defender, but the Broncos won’t need him to be very dedicated to doing that.

With their base seven guys of Derek Wolfe, Terrance Knighton, Kevin Vickerson, Robert Ayers, Von Miller, Nate Irving, and Wesley Woodyard, they’re going to be just fine against the run with those players.  Not much is going to be lost with backups like Malik Jackson, Sylvester Williams, Shaun Phillips, and Danny Trevathan, either.  They have the luxury of mixing up their personnel up front to meet any circumstance.

That allows the Broncos to play two coverage safeties, in Rahim Moore, and either Jammer or Mike Adams.  Personally, I think Jammer has more talent, and I’d like to see him start, and cover a lot of tight ends man-to-man.  Adams makes for a very good third safety.  Commenters are going to squawk, so let it begin,  but I’ve never seen anything from Quinton Carter to make me think he’s more than a backup and special teams guy.

If Moore plays centerfield most of the time, and Jammer plays the 2012 Adams role, with Adams playing the 2012 Jim Leonhard role, that could be a pretty good upgrade, right?

Another thing Jammer does is give you a good man-coverage option against a big, physical slot receiver too, like Anquan Boldin.  The Broncos wouldn’t see Boldin until the Super Bowl, right?  That’s exactly right; this team should be thinking about those kinds of matchups now.

The interesting spot to me is at corner, because the Broncos have an embarrassment of riches there.  With Champ Bailey, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Chris Harris, they have three legit starters at the position, and three guys who can be top ten NFL cornerbacks, if they play to their potential.  Tony Carter played well enough to be a starter for at least half of the teams in the NFL last season, and he’s probably set to be the dime guy, if the Broncos are playing small dime.

Then, there’s Omar Bolden and Kayvon Webster, who both clearly have some talent.  Bolden played a productive special teams role throughout last season, so I think he’s on the team.  The safety I didn’t mention, David Bruton, is definitely on the team too.  That’s why I’m pretty bearish on Quinton Carter making this team, unless somebody gets hurt.  As for Quinton beating out Jammer, don’t bet on it.

Think about this - the Broncos will probably only keep 25 defensive players on their 53-man roster.  Here’s how I’d rank the top 30 defensive players currently on their roster, in terms of usefulness, and/or high enough recent draft status to keep them around.

Rank Player Position
1 Von Miller OLB
2 Champ Bailey CB
3 Derek Wolfe DE
4 Wesley Woodyard OLB
5 Rahim Moore S
6 Chris Harris CB
7 Terrance Knighton DT
8 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB
9 Robert Ayers DE
10 Quentin Jammer S
11 Kevin Vickerson DT
12 Sylvester Williams DT
13 Shaun Phillips DE-OLB
14 Mike Adams S
15 Tony Carter CB
16 Nate Irving MLB
17 Danny Trevathan OLB
18 David Bruton S
19 Malik Jackson DE
20 Mitch Unrein DT
21 Omar Bolden CB
22 Kayvon Webster CB
23 Quanterus Smith DE-OLB
24 Joe Mays MLB
25 Steven Johnson MLB
26 Stewart Bradley MLB
27 Sealver Siliga DT
28 Quinton Carter S
29 Duke Ihenacho S
30 Jeremy Beal DE


I think that the top 23 of those players are close to locks to be on the roster, as long as they stay healthy.  The rest of them are probably hoping for an injury, or for a guy like Tony Carter to be sold off for a high price.

Are there any huge holes, or bad players there?  I know what some of you are thinking – YES, Mike linebacker, duh.  Well, the fact is that the job description has changed there too.  The position is a lot less important than it used to be, particularly given the Broncos' scheme, and situation, i.e. that they’ll have a lot of leads and play a lot in sub packages.

I’ve mentioned job descriptions a couple of times now, and I think I can use that concept to illustrate my overarching point, since most of us have had a job, and most of those jobs have written job descriptions.

My job title is Controller, and the primary skills required for doing it well are a strong knowledge of U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), as well as workable knowledge of federal, state, and local tax regulations.  It’s also important that I’m able to manage people well, as I have a team of 13 people who are actually doing the large majority of the first-level accounting work.  On a daily basis, I’m reviewing their work, approving all payments that the company makes, and also working with an outside CPA firm to make sure that the company is in compliance with all taxes.

That’s the very abbreviated version of my job, but it’s pretty specific, right?  The interesting thing is, I got this job from initially clicking on a posting on LinkedIn.  On that site, and on every job site, there are many, many jobs called Controller.  Every one of them is a little different.  Frankly, most of them have very little to do with tax, unlike the job I currently hold.  Some of them require very specific knowledge and skills that you could only get by being in that particular industry.  There are some Controller jobs I'm very well qualified for, and others where I'm not.  Despite having the same title, all those jobs aren't the same.

For the Broncos, here’s the job description of the middle linebacker:

  • Play from C-gap to C-gap in the running game, while flowing to the football, and mostly being unblocked.
  • Play mostly man-to-man coverage on running backs and tight ends in base passing situations.
  • Play some zone coverage, at times.
  • Come off the field in sub package situations.

That's not the job description for every MLB in the NFL, but it's what the Broncos need from the position.  It doesn't matter if a guy wouldn't fit everywhere else; only what he can do for Denver matters.  I am highly confident that Nate Irving can do those few specialized things pretty well.  He’ll give up a completion here and there on first down, but every team is less effective defending the pass on first down than they are in obvious passing situations.

For what I call the matchup safety, here’s the job description:

  • Align to the strength of the formation, and cover the #1 TE man-to-man a majority of the time.
  • A minority of the time, drop to either a deep half, a deep third, or robber technique, and play zone coverage.
  • Blitz occasionally.
  • While generally not responsible for a specific gap in the run game, help out with second-level run support.

Both Jammer and Mike Adams can do those things to some degree, but I think that Jammer has far superior man-coverage skills to Adams.  He’s been doing it all of his career on the outside, and I think he can most probably translate that experience into being strong inside with the same job.  The technique is the same, for the most part; you read the route, and follow the man.

This Broncos team is going to be outstanding, and frankly, the struggles with covering the TE seemed more of an annoyance to me than the kind of problem that would be the team’s downfall.  By adding a physical veteran player with man coverage skills, I think that the team just gave themselves a good chance to limit that annoyance.

It doesn’t matter that the Chargers didn’t want Jammer back, because in the way they play defense, he had ceased to fit well.  The way the Broncos play, I think he has a really good chance to play a key role.  And if he doesn’t, and this is another Drayton Florence signing (albeit a far cheaper one), what was lost?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

1.  I’m not in the arguing business, I’m in the saying what I think business.
2.  I get my information from my eyes.

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