Posted: 9:00 a.m. Saturday, May 4, 2013
When the Jaguars drafted Gratz in the 3rd round the picked him over more highly touted CB prospects, including his UConn Teammate Blidi Wreh-Wilson, and there was a few raised eyebrows. But Gus Bradley knows what he is looking for in a corner, and Corner was a big enough need that Gratz is arguably an upgrade over all the other options on the roster. After further reviewing Gratz, I can see why Bradley liked him enough to pull the trigger for him.
First off, there is a misconception about the Corners in this scheme that must be pointed out. Height seems to be an overrated measurable when talking about Bradley's press corners. Height is important, but its not the know all be all. Bradley's Corners in Seattle, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, gained notoriety for being considerably taller than the average CB, but Bradley has stated multiple times an important measurable he is looking for in his Corners is Arm Length. Gratz is not extremely tall by any means, he is only 5'11"-6'0", but he seems to have the necessary Arm length Bradley is looking for. Gratz's arms measure at 32 1/8" compared to Richard Sherman's 32" arms, and Brandon Browner's arms at 32 7/8".
The reason Bradley coverts arm length ties directly to the scheme he will be running in Jacksonville. Bradley's corners will run primarily press coverage, which means getting right into the receivers face and jamming them at the line. By having the extra length, Corners are able to jam the receiver easier, and disrupt the receivers route from the start of the play. By disrupting the receiver and throwing him off course, they buy time for the rest of the defense and also pressure the QB to make quicker decision which sometimes leads to bad decisions, which can lead to a "win" by the Defense. Gratz certainly has the "Length" aspect down.
Another vital aspect in Bradley's Corners is their strength and physicality. The corner has to have the ability to physically control the receiver when jamming him at the line, and he must win the leverage battle. If the Corner is not strong enough to win the battle at the line and disrupt the receiver, then the chances are he won't be able to thrive in Bradley's scheme.
Another important thing Bradley looks for is Speed. Bradley loves speed. Bradley has stated that one of the things he picked up from Pete Carroll in Seattle is the concept to build your team around speed. While the Corner has to be physical enough to jam the receiver, he also has to be athletic enough to keep up with him to prevent explosive plays. If a Corner is not fast enough to keep up with the opposing WR, then playing press coverage with him is normally asking for trouble. Big pass plays are commonly the deep pass, and the Corner has to have the speed to keep up with a WR down the field to prevent it. In this scheme the Corner is basically left in coverage on his own, with the only real help being the deep FS, so he really has to depend on his own physical skills to prevent big plays.
Length, strength, physicality, and athleticism. These appear to be the basic things Bradley appears to be looking for in Corner's for his scheme. Gratz seems to fit in well with the scheme going by these measureless alone.
We've already covered Gratz arm length, and it certainly fits what Bradley appears to be looking for. Gratz is also a pretty good athlete, who changes direction pretty well, which should serve him well in this scheme. Gratz didn't always show consistency or efficiency in press coverage though. He flashed good physicality and willingness to press, but there were times where he would not efficiently jam receivers. But he did show physicality in phases of his game.
I don't question Gratz's strength or physicality, as much as I do his press coverage technique and consistency. He put up the one of the top bench reps at the combine of any of the CB's (22 reps) and he showed the strength and physicality to be able to shed blocks. He was a physical run defender, who wasn't afraid to fight through traffic to attempt make plays, though he does have to be more consistent in this area also. He remained physical in man coverage, showing that at least the willingness to be physical is there.
While he doesn't do it quite consistently enough, there are times where he shows the ability to jam WR's at the LOS thanks to his physicality. He has the ability to be able to efficiently jam WR's and disrupt their routes in press; he just needs to work on being more consistent at doing so, and refine his technique some. If there's any coach that can help mold him into a good press corner, it should be Bradley. Gratz has the tools you look for in a press corner; Length, Strength, physicality, and athleticism. I can see why Bradley pulled the trigger on him. He has a high ceiling, and it is widely expected for him to open up next season as a starter. It will be interesting to see how he is brought along over the next few seasons.