Welcome again to a different version of “Grinding the Tape”. This week, we are going to check out one other rising star for the Bucs, security Antoine Winfield Jr.
Winfield is coming into his third yr within the league after being drafted within the second spherical of the 2020 NFL Draft. Over the course of his first two seasons, he has shortly established himself as probably the greatest protection safeties within the sport. In his younger profession, he has already logged 182 mixed tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 4 compelled fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries and three interceptions. As well as, he completed fourth in voting for AP Defensive Rookie of the 12 months in 2020 and earned his first Professional Bowl choice in 2021. He’s a giant cause why many analysts are so excessive on the Bucs secondary general.
Winfield performs a vital position within the Todd Bowles Cowl-3 scheme. For almost all of snaps, he’s the deep security serving to to make sure that large performs don’t occur. In keeping with Professional Soccer Focus, Winfield lined up deep (as “Free Security”) over 70% of the time in 2021. This permits Bowles to make use of his different security on the sphere in a wide range of methods. This consists of bringing him into the field to ascertain numbers to cease the run.
So, what makes Winfield so nice that permits him to unlock the Bucs’ protection? I endeavored to seek out out. I watched 4 video games from final season for my analysis: Week 1 towards Dallas, Week 3 towards the Rams, Week 5 towards New England and Week 8 towards New Orleans. Listed here are the 4 keys I discovered to his success:
Studying The Quarterback
One of many issues that may make watching safeties – particularly deep safeties – so irritating is the dearth of motion on a play-to-play foundation. There’s a good variety of snaps the place they simply aren’t concerned within the play in any respect. A few of this comes from operating performs that get stuffed comparatively shortly earlier than the excessive security can get all the way down to the road to assist. Others are move performs to the far facet of the sphere. However in watching Winfield, I consider I’ve a newfound appreciation for a high-caliber security not getting work. This comes from his potential to make quarterbacks simply go away from his facet of the sphere.
Many groups within the NFL are shifting to extra Cowl-4 seems to stop large performs. This has the protection drop 4 members of the secondary to deep zones to dissuade the offense from attempting to push the ball downfield. The Bucs haven’t moved on this path, as a substitute retaining with their Cowl 3/Cowl 1 schemes. The potential weak point of that is that, if the offense sends two or extra receivers on deep routes, a type of receivers goes to finish up in single protection. The bottom line is for the deep security to have the ability to learn the play nicely sufficient to decide to the almost definitely route the quarterback needs to go to. Winfield is a grasp of this. That’s a giant cause why the Bucs allowed the third-fewest performs of 40-plus yards final yr, giving up simply 5.
Check out just a few examples of this:
Watch as Winfield shortly strikes to his proper to cowl up the free launch of the slot receiver. On the similar time, he’s watching the quarterback. This permits him to learn Mac Jones to see if he tries to push the ball to the surface receiver. If Jones does, Winfield can hold shifting outdoors to successfully create a double on the move. If Jones continues to search for the slot receiver, Winfield has him lined. All of the whereas, Winfield is utilizing his motion to push the slot receiver inside. Why? That’s the place he has assist from the dropping linebacker beneath and the extra defensive again excessive. In the end, Jones can’t discover an choice in both of these first two reads, holds onto the ball too lengthy and will get eaten up by the move rush.
On this subsequent one, Winfield is once more in a position to shortly learn quarterback Trevor Siemian and shift to the facet of the play of the quarterback’s preliminary learn. He shortly covers up the tight finish releasing deep and prevents the play from doubtlessly turning into a bit play. Siemian finally settles for the beneath route for a brief five-yard achieve.
Working Nicely In House
One other space that contributes to Winfield being rated the second-best security within the NFL final yr by PFF (with a grade of 89.5) is his potential to know the texture for zone protection. He can move off receivers with ease and understands tips on how to transfer inside his zone to cowl gamers behind him who he can’t really see. This provides him the power to kill off would-be choices in a quarterback’s development.
Watch as Winfield is offered with two crossing routes converging simply behind him. If he chooses to observe the mistaken one, it could possibly result in an open receiver and a landing. However he is aware of the protection and realizes that he has assist from different Bucs defenders to his left. So, he lets the cross to his left launch into that zone. In the meantime, he chooses to select up the cross shifting to his proper. He follows the receiver into open area and prevents him from coming open. Each of these crosses occurred to his again. However he instinctively understood what was taking place and made the suitable name.
Driving To Beneath Routes
This was the side of Winfield’s sport I didn’t really admire sufficient. His potential to sink his hips and drive ahead from a backpedal enable him to explosively drive down on mesh routes, quick crossers and slants with authority. He combines this athleticism with a uncommon understanding of route combos to assist him choose up routes he would usually haven’t any enterprise masking. There isn’t a scarcity of those performs on his tape in each sport.
Towards Dallas, Amari Cooper is given a free launch out of the slot on a deep out. You’ll be able to see Dak Prescott look to Cooper in his development. However he opts to throw the ball to the surface receiver on the quick hitch as a substitute. That is, largely. as a result of Winfield was in a position to cease his drop and drive down on Cooper’s route so shortly.
Right here, you see the identical factor towards Dallas tight finish Dalton Schultz. Schultz is ready to discover some area up the seam initially. Nevertheless, as soon as he bends his path to the within, Winfield is ready to break shortly and chew up tons of floor. This takes Schultz out as an choice for Prescott.
Right here’s another instance, as this one particularly stood out. This wasn’t a deep out the place he needed to cowl a small quantity of area. And this wasn’t an apparent route for Winfield to select up both. This was Winfield working down from a really deep single-high placement and choosing up a really shallow cross on a mesh idea. How he was in a position to diagnose the route idea and choose up the route so simply and so shortly actually highlights what makes him particular. And for good measure, listed below are two extra examples towards New Orleans:
Athleticism On Show
In earlier editions of “Grinding the Tape,” I’ve famous that new safeties Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan lack some athleticism, which limits their video games. That’s not the case with Winfield. His explosiveness out and in of his cuts, in addition to his backpedal, enable him to make some actually enjoyable highlight-reel performs.
You gained’t discover this play on Winfield’s stat sheet. Regardless of his superhuman efforts to cowl the receiver and finally choose the ball off, the play was referred to as again on account of a roughing the passer name. But it surely doesn’t cease us from actually seeing how incredible of an athlete Winfield is. Have a look at what he needed to take care of. With all the area obtainable, Winfield has to defend towards what could possibly be a two-way go. He needs to be prepared for each an outdoor and an inside break. The receiver makes use of this to his benefit, getting behind Winfield earlier than finally breaking in. This creates the sliver of daylight the quarterback thinks will likely be a straightforward, wide-open landing. However Winfield is ready to shortly get well and lower the ball off.
Right here, towards New England, Winfield traces up as a nook near the road of scrimmage. Because the ball is snapped, he’s pushed again by the receiver attempting to create as a lot room as potential for the again, who’s getting the designed flat move. Winfield is ready to shortly diagnose the play, shed the block and transfer into place. That is all on account of his athleticism, permitting him to explosively drive down on the operating again. He finishes the play with a powerful deal with that knocks the ball out for a fumble and a turnover for the Bucs.
Lastly, towards Dallas, you’ll be able to watch as Winfield modifications path from his drop right into a deep zone. He is ready to transfer again towards the ball’s flight path with power and lateral agility. This is the reason he’s in a position to assist disrupt the move on the catch level. This led to a Bucs interception and one other turnover.
Winfield is the definition of a “do-it-all” security. He has the highlight-reel performs on account of a uncommon mixture of athleticism and processing potential. He has the pace to be a single-high security. The protection talents to play within the slot. However the one factor I don’t suppose he will get sufficient credit score for is his potential to affect a play with out being a direct a part of it. He can take away massive swaths of the sphere from a quarterback, forcing quick throws beneath. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing, Winfield is a pleasure to observe.