Most think the play of veteran New York Giants cornerback Corey Webster has been in proportion to the size of the actor who starred in a TV series that bares his surname. For the Giants defense to really take shape, the perceived number one corner on the team must play up to the subsequent level of the competition. But that theory begs the question; is Corey Webster still a number one corner? Better yet, was he ever a number one corner? We find out the best way we know how. Through game film!
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The sentiment around Giants land in regards to their number one corner play seems to have a similar tone as it does with the effectiveness of a certain defensive end. How ironic is it that both Corey Webster and defensive end Justin Tuck were drafted the same year in 2005? Both are lightning rods for fans due to their once seemingly untouchable status as stalwarts on a ferocious Giants defense. And you have to think that both know it!
There's another similarity between the two veterans as well. Both are being pushed off the porch for first-round draft picks as corner Prince Amukamara and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul are poised to be the new generation's Webster and Tuck respectively. But both seem to have a death grip on their respective statuses within the organization.
In Webster's case the fall from grace may be a bit more dramatic.
I first starting watching Webster play at Louisiana State University. His aggressive press style of play was right up my alley. I admired how despite not being the fastest of corners he had the ability to control receivers at and around the line of scrimmage due to his extreme physicality. His persona was ultra-competitive, which fit the scheme he was playing in as well as the coach he was playing for, current Alabama coach Nick Saban, absolutely perfect.
The talent on Webster's college team was plentiful and stacked with future NFL players especially on defensive side of the ball. The type of pressure the defense would generate was very reminiscent to the pressure the Giants have generated over the years. Having a press corner do his thing while being able to apply pressure without blitzing is worth it's weight in gold.
What it does is throw off the timing of the route just long enough to allow the front seven to do it's collective thing. This scenario often forces hurried and errant passes from quarterbacks. Webster worked in unison with the most effective scheme in college on his way to back to back seven interception seasons as a sophomore and junior. Finishing up with two interceptions in his senior year. This is after initially playing wide receiver as a freshman!
The combination of being physical, having good hands, and being extremely productive - paired with ideal size (6-foot, 200 pounds), I figured would warrant Webster serious consideration for first-round status.
The Giants made Webster a second-round pick (43rd overall), a round before drafting Tuck with the 74th selection. As a matter of fact, if you throw in the selection of fourth-round pick running back Brandon Jacobs, this might be the most significant draft in recent Giants lore.
Throughout most of his career Webster has been a bit of an unsung hero. The Giants style of defense was very reminiscent of what he played in at LSU which was the exact kind of schematic carryover Webster needed to succeed early on. My only concern with him was his lack of turnovers for the first half of his career. Through his first five seasons he only procured six interceptions (with 1 fumble recovery). He seemed like a natural turnover machine in college, and I expected that to carry over into the pro ranks. I must point out that a receiver can be very effective with or without turnovers. Often times turnovers mask average corner play. But in the case of Webster, his first five seasons were full of very quality play at the corner position.
Now let's get down to the 'Brass Tacks' of the matter
As effective as I thought Webster was in college and early on in his career, I've found him to be inconsistent the last couple of seasons. His ability to control the game at or around the line of scrimmage has not changed. His press-technique is 'A' grade from a mechanical standpoint. He is able to get the jam on the outside shoulders of most receivers. His play in short area space is pretty good, whether it be in zone or man principles. His hands are still good enough to make a play on the ball when in perfect position. When Webster is able to keep the play in front of him he's on a near Pro Bowl level.
Here's Webster in zone coverage against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Here Webster can be aggressive like he wants due to having safety help over the top. This is what I mean by being really good when the play is in front of him. Webster has really good instincts, which goes along with his extreme aggressiveness.
Webster's aggressiveness leads him to bite on the play-action fake by Rodgers. Which is no longer looking good since the safety bit on it as well! This could be big trouble. The receiver James Jones is virtually open running a '9' route.
Webster's instinct helped him out on this play as Rodgers went to his second read in the progression rather quickly, which happens to be slot receiver Randall Cobb running an out route.
Webster picks this one off, as we can see - this could've been a complete disaster. The receiver James Jones is standing by himself just waiting to make a big play. More times than not in 2012 this play would have had the opposite result.
The past three seasons have been a complete turnaround for Webster in the turnover department. After coming up with six interceptions his first five seasons, Webster has produced 14 the past three seasons! I've noticed a lot more gambling in Webster's technique, which I'm sure has assisted in the increase in production. These gambles have also unfortunately led to a ton of missed opportunities and flat-out horrendous play.
'1' is the loneliest number
As the Giants perceived No. 1 corner Webster draws tough matchups. With offenses being at an all-time high in productivity film study and pro-personnel scouting has followed suit. Offensive coordinators have put Webster in situations where they have seen him struggle for a myriad of reasons, the most of which stems from his aggressiveness.
Double moves are Websters Achilles heel! He absolutely cannot defend any type of route that is run off schedule so to speak. Here Jordy Nelson is running a stutter and go. Watch how great Webster is initially on the route.
Webster gets the jam on the bigger Nelson. Webster stays on top of receivers beautifully, even at this stage of his career.
He's still in the hip pocket of the receiver and is in front of him making it hard for anything to be completed in the intermediate part of the field.
If this route was done at this point, it would be a pick 6 for Webster. He dominated the bottom of this exchange!
Well, it wasn't done. And now Webster is! Webster is slow. I'm sorry to say it. In the scouting world when you don't have the speed to make up for errors it's commonly referred to as being slow. I don't think Webster can run downfield with any of the top receivers anymore - and it showed a lot with me studying every snap he took in 2012. He's usually good right until about the intermediate point, but he lacks that extra gear that most of the top receivers have in this day and age. Coming out of college he was a reported 4.5 guy. I have to believe he's running around a 4.6 after about 25 yards....
Nelson gets the easy 50-yard TD, due to Webster's inability to make up distance and his sheer aggressiveness. Let's continue down this road......
Here one of the fastest receivers in the league in Torrey Smith of the Ravens is running the same exact route that Nelson did. Webster doesn't want any part of the press on this dude because if it doesn't get it it's curtains! SO he uses the 'bail 'technique' which I notice he uses a lot against guys with blinding speed.
Like usual, Webster is on top of the route out of the gate.
He even plays the double move part of it well. Which seemed pretty easy as Smith needs to work on his selling of the fake.
After the fake Webster is right back in Smith's hip pocket. Webster is a real 'handsy' corner downfield, which is not a good thing. He's doing this out of fear in my opinion. He's no longer confident in his athleticism so he needs to really be able to feel the receivers.
Once again the receiver goes to his 6th gear while Webster is in 5th.
Speed kills! Smith breaks off an explosive play, which can be very demoralizing to a defense. This next one is very indicative of where Webster is as far as his physical attributes go.
Webster is matched up with the league's leader in yards per catch in Tampa's Vincent Jackson. Webster is in zone with a 'super' bail technique due to not having help over the top with this monster he's covering. Circled is the safety who would normally give him help over the top. In this scheme it helps if corners can be left on an island as defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes to dial-up exotic blitz packages and disguise coverages.
This play was not a completion because of anything Webster did, it was incomplete due to an overthrow. It's meant to show you how much a liability Webster is covering downfield on speedy receivers.
Though Webster bailed and ran, Jackson ate up the cushion rather quickly and evened up the foot race.
Well you know the old adage. If he's even, he's leavin'? That would be an understatement at this point in Webster's career. In this play it looks like he was running with cement cleats on! He should require permanent help over the top when matched up in these situations. Around here we call that 'easy money'. You know who makes easy money? One guess. It's referred to as the world's oldest profession....
Getting deeper in my film study I noticed that Webster, even when in position, would struggle making a play on the ball if it was downfield. He almost contributed to one of the bigger blunders in the NFL in the 2012 season. Charged with stopping Dez Bryant, which he should never be asked to do again, Webster let Bryant get behind him on a double move with 16 seconds left that almost cost the Giants a hard fought victory. This play showed how Webster's aggressiveness and lack of speed could be the death of the Giants figuratively speaking.
All three of these secondary members have one duty when it's 16 seconds left. DO NOT GET BEAT DEEP! Webster is the outside man, so he technically has to guard against the potential sideline throw. But he must do that very cautiously.
Giants safety Tyler Sash sits on the underneath part of the coverage for some strange reason. Safety Michael Coe is playing the deepest of deep. Bryant hits Webster with a double move I'm sure they saw on film, and Webster bites pretty hard. Bryant is the absolute truth, he doesn't need help getting open. So taking a false step and trying to chase him down is hazardous for any corner's health.
Right here Webster recovers and sorta has a step on Bryant who is going for the gusto.
Well he had a step on Bryant who ran by Webster almost like Webster was standing still! Webster had to have felt sick to his stomach once he realized what was unfolding.
In what would've been up there with New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez's "butt fumble", Webster and Coe are saved literally by one finger. A finger that touched the back of the end zone when Bryant tried to brace himself for impact after catching this miracle pass! This was completely embarrassing for anyone who is a fan of good corner play.
All good things must come to an end...Eventually
Webster has had a relatively good career for the Giants as their primary corner for the better part of a decade. For what once was a career built on physicality and savvy technical skills, has now culminated an erosion of athleticism and inconsistent ball-skills downfield. For the Giants to climb back to the top of the defensive mountain top, they must have corners who can play on an island a great deal of the time. It's time for 2011 first-round draft pick Prince Amukamara to assume the role once held by Webster as the primary corner. Prince needs to shadow the number one receiving threat on each opposing offense. His size, physicality, and closing speed, are in-line with some of today's best receivers.
I would actually have the newly reacquired Aaron Ross serve as the number two corner this upcoming season (Unless Terrell Thomas can prove he's all the way healthy). At this point in their respective careers I believe Ross is the better option in the Fewell scheme.
I'd move Corey Webster to the nickel back where his physicality and short area prowess would be worth it's weight in gold. If the number one receiver lines up at the slot, Amukamara would shadow him - while Ross assumes the left corner position.
Corey Webster is nowhere near done as a football player, but his time as a number 1 corner is over. His brains and experience is very valuable and worth having around the younger corners for at least another season. If the Giants go through this season with Webster as the primary...They may once again come up small! The film don't lie....
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