Modern football offenses are designed to put the maximum amount of stress on a defense. They try to stress a defense with tempo and speed, to stretch them horizontally and vertically, and basically force them to defend every single blade of grass.
That lets an offense get mismatches and get the ball to athletic playmakers in space. Every offense tries to do that to some extent, but few do it better than the teams in the Big 12. Every offense in that conference tries to score on every single play, leading to games that look more like track meets than the plodding football games of yore.
Defenses are trying to combat that by getting faster and more versatile — often asking their defensive backs to do more and more.
Baylor defensive back Jalen Pitre is one of those DBs who has become a “do-it-all” player for his defense. Playing the “STAR” position as a DB/LB hybrid, Pitre covers passes, plays the run, and rushes the passer as a slot, safety, and a linebacker.
The New York Giants are moving to a much more aggressive defense under Wink Martindale. Martindale’s defenses love to move defensive backs around and scheme exotic blitzes.
Could Pitre be on the Giants’ radar?
Prospect: Jalen Pitre (8)
Games Watched: vs. TCU (2021), vs. BYU (2021), vs. Oklahoma (2021), vs. Oklahoma State (2021 Big 12 Championship)
Games Played: 46
Tackles For a Loss: 36.0
Forced Fumbles: 4
Passes Defensed: 10
Games Played: 14
Tackles For a Loss: 18.5
Forced Fumbles: 3
Passes Defensed: 7
Best: Versatility, blitzing, run defense, short-area coverage, competitive toughness
Worst: Long speed, range
Projection: An important nickel defender in an aggressive blitzing defense.
Baylor defensive back Jalen Pitre is an experienced, productive, versatile, and tough defender with an intriguing skill set for the NFL.
Pitre primarily lined up at the “STAR” position in Baylor’s defense. That role asked him to take on the duties of a box safety, slot defender, and outside linebacker. As such, Pitre has had an incredibly varied set of responsibilities in the defense.
Pitre shows very good footall IQ and mental processing in switching positions on a down-to-down basis. He shows great mental footwork, diagnosing the offense quickly, putting himself in good positions to make plays, and is seldom fooled by misdirection from the offense.
Pitre is a capable coverage player around the line of scrimmage. He hits his landmarks quickly and efficiently in zone coverage and has enough athleticism to stay with running backs and slot receivers on quick routes. Pitre has a solid closing burst in the shallow area of the field and is very good at knocking the ball away to deny receptions.
He is a very good run defender who diagnoses running plays very quickly and has a hair trigger to fire into the backfield. He generally takes good – if aggressive – angles to the ball and is frequently able to disrupt behind the line of scrimmage. Pitre was also frequently asked to blitz in Baylor’s defense, and he was effective in that role as well. While he didn’t amass many sacks, he was frequently disruptive in the backfield. He plays with the same aggression rushing the passer as he does defending the run. Pitre is capable of disguising his bltizes well and generally times his rushes well enough.
While Pitre is a very versatile defender, he appears to be “quicker than fast” and has relatively limited range. He can be a step or two late to reach plays when he needs to come from far away, which also extends to his pass rushes when blitzing from a wider alignment.
Pitre doesn’t have the range to be a true centerfielding safety, nor does he have the hips or long speed to match up in man coverage with athletic receivers. Pitre’s aggressiveness can also get him into trouble on the rare occasions that he does misdiagnose a play. He commits hard and fast, which can take him well out of the play when he falls for misdirection.
Overall Grade: 7.1
Baylor’s Jalen Pitre projects as an important nickel defender in an aggressive blitzing defense. He is a versatile modern defensive back who can perform a variety of roles in a modern “multiple” defense. And while he might not defend the run, rush the passer, or cover in space as well as a player who is dedicated to one of those disciplines, his ability to do them all adequately is valuable.
Pitre is best around the line of scrimmage, either covering the flats or hook/curl areas, playing the run, or executing blitzes from the slot or a linebacker position. He’s an instinctive defender who processes impressively quickly, and has enough short-area athleticism to play quickly in that area of the field.
But for all his versatility, he probably shouldn’t be used as a centerfielder or asked to play in too much man coverage against athletic receiving options.
Pitre’s best football may yet be ahead of him and he could blossom into an impact player at the NFL level. Baylor’s defense used him well, but made a few mystifying choices that likely impacted his production at the collegiate level. In particular, when Pitre was asked to blitz, he was often asked to beat offensive tackles in 1-on-1 situations. And while he has a definite athletic advantage, he was still going up against defenders who had well over 100 pounds on him. He would be much better used in a defense that schemed him free runs into the backfield.
Pitre’s competitive toughness and skill set will also likely translate well to special teams. He has the potential to be a special teams “ace” covering kicks and punts.