The New York Giants have an eternal need for good linebacking. Quality, athletic, three-down linebackers are quite simply hard to come by, and given their plethora of needs over the course of the coming off-season, they might find themselves unable to devote the resources necessary to secure a top option.
But if they are forced to look at more lowly regarded options, the 2019 NFL Draft could provide a few intriguing options. This class of off-ball linebackers proved to be surprisingly, shockingly, athletic at the Scouting Combine and are forcing scouts to go back to the tape and see what they might have missed. Perhaps none more-so than former walk-on, Blake Cashman of Minnesota. While Cashman’s instincts and football IQ were highly thought of coming out of school, his athleticism was not. So it was a complete surprise when he tested out as the third most athletic linebacker in this class, only slightly behind Devin White and Devin Bush.
If a team is looking for a sleeper at the position, Blake Cashman would be a good place to start.
- Great instincts and processing speed. Usually take an accurate first step.
- Good in zone coverage.
- Great closing burst.
- Good athleticism.
- Talented blitzer.
- Reliable tackler.
- Active communicator before the snap.
- Navigates traffic at the line of scrimmage well.
- Non-stop motor
- Doesn’t possess great size.
- Generally is a sound tackler, but not always a forceful one.
- Occasionally takes questionable angle to the ball.
What They’re Saying
Limited WILL linebacker who isn’t big and isn’t fast, but plays with determination and a nose for the ball. Former walk-ons usually have chips on their shoulders that are permanent fixtures and Cashman is no different. He’s made the most out of every opportunity he’s created for himself, but his lack of athletic traits and length create a small margin for error in his play. If he can improve in taking on blocks and play more instinctively, he could have a chance as a back-end backup and core special-teamer.
- Lance Zierlein (NFL.com - Scouting Report)
Does He Fit The Giants?
Cashman certainly fits the Giants’ defense.
He is a smart, athletic linebacker, three-down with versatility, and that is something the Giants need on their defense. Cashman isn’t highly regarded, but his performance at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine should make scouts return to the tape on him.
In fact, his is the rare story of a player’s perceived athletic limitations being blown away by their combine testing. On tape, Cashman shows good instincts, discipline, and patience in his assignments, and that is likely responsible for the perception of athletic limitations. However, much like a running back, once Cashman feels the time is right to make a play, he opens it up and shows a strong closing burst to make a tackle or defend a pass.
Cashman has a good feel for zone coverage, quickly getting into position with gliding footwork and shows a strong awareness of route concepts and where the quarterback likely wants to go with the ball. He was frequently used to cover slot receivers by Minnesota’s defense, but is probably better suited to underneath zones in the NFL.
Finally, he shows that feel for the flow of the offense again as a pass rusher, timing his blitzes well to get free runs at the quarterback or using his explosiveness to deal with running backs on blitz pickup.
Cashman certainly has his flaws, occasionally taking inefficient angles to the ball and finding himself out of position. And while he is a sound tackler, generally bringing ball carriers down securely, he doesn’t hit with the “thump” that you would expect from a player with his burst.
But, if the Giants are looking for an under-the-radar linebacker who can play a variety of roles on all three downs, Cashman could be a gem.