Steelers Game Plan on Attacking Rashaan Melvin
With two games as a starter for his career, expect Todd Haley and the Steelers to target Rashaan Melvin.
Melvin is a 6-2 Cornerback that went undrafted in the 2013 draft. Melvin’s biggest strength is his football IQ. He is a smart player that exhibits good awareness, play recognition and can react to plays very quickly. Melvin is primarily suited to play in a Zone Defense. When the play is in front of him, Melvin has a good burst of speed and can challenge for the ball in the air.
Although Melvin claims to prefer playing Press man coverage, he is weak in that coverage scheme. Deeper routes, especially those that break outside toward sideline, give him trouble. He can also be burned by double moves. WR, even those who aren’t necessarily quick, are able to get separation.
Let’s take a look at how Melvin was used in Dean Pees’ defense and where he excelled or struggled. Send me your comments on the BSL board here.
Cover 1 – Press Man Coverage
Defensive Coordinator, Dean Pees, has been relying on man coverage from the Corners with a single high Safety as his base defense over the last three games. Against in an inexperienced Quarterback, Pees could afford to leave his Corners on one-on-one coverage with a Receiver while creating an 8-man front to stop the run or rush the Quarterback with more than 4 Pass Rushers.
Playing Press Man Coverage is where Melvin Struggles the most. In a press technique, the Cornerback plays up close to the receiver before the snap. The CB’s goal is to jam the receiver at the snap of the ball in an attempt to throw off the timing between the WR and the Quarterback. Another reason for press man coverage is to stop receivers from breaking towards the middle of the field while Linebackers are blitzing the QB.
Against the Texans, Melvin tries to jam Andre Johnson, but misses. Johnson is able get inside leverage on Melvin. With inside leverage on a Cornerback, the Wide Receiver can easily catch a ball from the Quarterback. What saves the defense is the poor eye discipline by the Texans Quarterback, Keenum. He stares down Johnson during the entire play. The result of this play was an interception due to the inexperience of the Quarterback. A more savvy veteran would have froze the Safety in the middle of the field and then threw to the open Receiver.
Let’s take a look at another example of Melvin’s ability to play Press Man Coverage. During the Browns game, Melvin is able to obtain inside leverage on the Receiver, but fails to jam or disrupt the timing of the route. Melvin is also late on opening up his hips and running with the receiver. The result is that the receiver was able to obtain separation from Melvin and could have scored. Luckily for the Ravens an undrafted rookie was under center for the Browns and chose to throw a 3 yard pass. While Connor Shaw missed the opportunity to throw to an open receiver, a veteran Quarterback in the playoffs will take full advantage of the coverage miss.
Cover 1 – Off-man Coverage
If Pees decides to stick with man coverage, he is better off asking Melvin to line up in Off-man coverage. In off-man coverage, the Cornerback gives a 7-8 yard cushion to the Receiver. After the ball is snapped, the Cornerback doesn’t move until the WR takes 3 steps into his route. The Cornerback then ‘catches’ the route as it develops. This technique allows Melvin to diagnose the route and react accordingly. Pees can also disguise man coverage to look like a typical Cover 3 formation.
Cover 3 – Zone Coverage
Dean Pees has used Cover 3 as his base formation throughout the season. Cover 3 is made up of a three Defensive backs in deep zone and four Linebackers and Safeties in under zone. This scheme is used in early down-and-distance situations. It allows the defense to create an eight-man front to stop the run, rush 4 and drop 7 into coverage or rush 5 and drop 6 into coverage. In the standard three-deep zone both cornerbacks drop to the outside third with the free safety playing the deep middle of the field (or middle third). Zone Coverage is ideal for Melvin. He likes to play downhill and can read and diagnose plays fairly well.
Cover 2 – Zone Coverage
Cover 2 is a two-deep, five-under zone defense. Pees uses cover 2 in pure passing situations. If the Ravens have a lead in the 4th Quarter expect to see a lot of Cover 2.
By rushing four, and dropping seven into coverage, the defense can take away deep routes and and force the ball underneath to the flat or check-down. Similar to Cover 3, Melvin fits into this coverage scheme very well.
Nadeem was born and raised in Baltimore and now lives in Chicago with his wife and two kids. He is a graduate of Loyola College in Maryland with a degree in Engineering. Nadeem started to write about the Ravens in 2013 for his site Ravens Film Review, and progressing to work for I Hate JJ Redick. and later Russell Street Report.