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Insider: Safety increasingly tough position to play

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By PFW staff

The following quotes are from NFL scouts, coaches and front-office personnel, speaking on the condition of anonymity:

• “It is so hard to play safety right now it is incredible. What’s really interesting to me — the way defenses are run now — watch how safeties have to fill. I was watching (Oakland SS) Tyvon Branch the other day. He had some great fills — he came in low, drove through his hips with his head up and just drilled the back for a two- or three-yard gain. He’s about 215 (pounds). If you try to tackle a quarterback, tight end or receiver like that, it’s 15 yards and a $40K fine. You need to know who has the ball and have to change your whole approach on how to tackle depending on who has it. Ronnie Lott would have a hard time playing in today’s game.”

“The Ravens got a steal with Corey Graham. He is now starting for the Ravens as a cornerback. He was brought in to be a special-teams phenom, and he has turned out to be a find for them on defense with all the injuries they have had at the position.”

“Losing (LOLB Brooks) Reed could hurt (the Texans). He was playing at a high level before he was injured. He is very disciplined setting the edge.”

“(Redskins director of pro personnel) Morocco Brown interviewed for the GM job before they brought in Bruce Allen. He has had a lot of success constructing the Chicago Bears and now resurrecting the Washington Redskins. He is the most trusted lieutenant of Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen. I hear the name of (Chiefs pro personnel director) Ray Farmer and I like him. He’s a great guy, but no one wants anything to do with the Kansas City Chiefs right now. … I know how they run it. It’s way too mechanical. They want robots in the front office, not evaluators. It’s important to have a system and to make scouting a science as much as you can, but this business is about having a gut feel and calling it like you see it. I don’t want a robot scouting for me.”  

• “I love the ‘under’ defense. It’s a great defense, but you don’t see it run as a base the majority of the time in this league. Defenses that use it get so nervous that they are going to get mismatched with motion. All you have to do is slide your linebackers over one step to the motion. If I were starting a team fresh, we would be playing the under with cover-2 and playing press-man coverage behind it. Take a look at the NFC West right now. There is a reason they got better in a hurry.”

• “Do you remember when James Harrison got that fine for hitting (Mohamed) Massaquoi in the hook zone when he was coming from the other side? Harrison lowered his knees and drove his shoulder through the receiver. He said it was a (bad) throw by the quarterback and that they should have fined his (butt) for throwing that ball. He was 100 percent right. He didn’t move. So much of the game happens at a split-second. How are you supposed to adjust in the air to a crazy pass when a receiver goes up to get it and your body is going to get crunched  coming down. … Ask any player — they will tell you they would rather get hit in the head than the knees. It would be a good poll question. A concussion may affect their future, but their knees affect right now. That is earning power. Hit your knee right and you are done for the year. Take a really bad concussion and you are out for a game or two. And you may not ever come back from a knee (injury).”

• “The Bears look like they are running scared now. Lovie Smith treats Brian Urlacher like Rex Ryan treats Darrelle Revis. When the Jets lost Revis for the year, Rex basically said, ‘We are done. We suck.’  Look at the records in Chicago when Urlacher is not playing. The defense cannot line up or stop anyone. It’s a disaster. … I’m surprised Nick Roach is still on the team.  I always thought he was a backup. I’m shocked he has stayed healthy (all year).”

• “(Browns president Joe) Banner does not give a (expletive) about what the press says. He didn’t when he hired Andy Reid. Mike Lombardi made some mistakes when he was young (and) Bill Belichick was right there with him. He has been able to survive. I’m surprised by the character assassination (of Lombardi).”

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