Redskins Newest Cornerback Ronald Darby - Film Study

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

When Eagles corner Ronald Darby became a free agent, I was hoping the Redskins would at least sniff around. When I voiced my desire for this to happen, many fans were reluctant to see past his inconsistencies and injuries - and look, I get it. Availability is the biggest ability in the NFL, and Darby has missed a total of 20 games over his last three seasons in Philadelphia.

When the Redskins signed Darby for one year, $3 million(up to $4m with incentives) last week, fan opinion was very mixed.

I am cautiously optimistic however, that he can perform at a high level and fill the void at outside cornerback that was left when Quinton Dunbar was traded to the Seahawks for a fifth round pick.


Darby went to high school at nearby Potomac in Oxon Hill, MD. He was a four-star football recruit coming out of high school and also was a bronze medalist in the 200m dash at the 2011 World Youth Track and Field Championship. He attended Florida State University, and entered the 2015 NFL Draft as a Junior, where he was selected in the second round (50th overall) by the Buffalo Bills.

Prior to the draft, Darby put on a show at the combine, posting a 4.38 40-yard dash with a blistering 1.53 10 yard split, a 41 1⁄2 inch vertical and 4.14 short shuttle. He checked in at 5’11” 193 pounds.

Darby started 15 games for the Bills as a rookie, and had a combined 68 tackles, 21 passes defended and two interceptions. He was named Pro Football Focus’ Defensive Rookie of the Year.

The following season, he missed two games with injury (hamstring and concussion), but started 14 contests, registering 69 total tackles and 12 passes defended.

In the summer of 2017, the Bills traded Darby to the Eagles in exchange for Jordan Matthews and a third round pick.

His time with the Eagles has been marred with injuries, including a dislocated ankle (2017), torn ACL (2018) and a hip injury (2019). There is an absolute concern about his durability, but when healthy, the 26 year old can flat out play.


Darby is best in man coverage where he can use his exceptional speed in hip-trail or off-man looks. Below you’ll see an example of this as he runs step-for-step with speedster Terry McLaurin. Although Darby didn't make the play due to an exceptional effort by McLaurin, he was in almost perfect position.

Here is the slow-mo close-up version of the play above.

Here you see Darby on off-man against Paul Richardson Jr., another wide receiver with excellent speed. He maintains good discipline to not get beat by the double move, and plays great inside leverage coverage.

The one thing you’ll see, like the clip above, is that he’s in almost perfect position, but can’t quite make a play on the ball.

This next look appears to be a cover 3 or match-up zone. Darby reads both the tight ends body and the quarterback’s eyes, and gets a great jump on this deflection. It’s almost like he’s baiting Case Keenum to throw this football. This should have been an easy interception. And again, not to sound like a broken record, but making plays on the football are a bit concerning in these clips - although his positioning and technique are nearly perfect.

Here is the same play from a different angle.

Finally, you see Darby in the clip below essentially running the post route for Paul Richardson, giving Keenum nowhere to go with the football.


I chose the Redskins week one game to look at for a few reasons. First, there was not a lot of tape on our young receiving corps at the time, and we did have a decent offensive showing with Case under center. Second, everyone was pretty healthy during week one, so you get to see both teams and their players at full strength. Finally, I wanted to give the fans some perspective of how good Darby can be against true speed guys - which you saw in both McLaurin and Richardson. As you all know, this is an area our secondary has definitely struggled in lately; especially the Josh Norman years.

Overall, I think Darby bring something unique to this team at outside corner, and that’s something we haven’t had much of lately - speed and athleticism. The concern remains around his availability. Will we get the Bills version(where he started 29 of a possible 32 games) or the Eagles version the past three seasons?

Either way, this is a one-year, prove-it deal for the 26 year old corner.


Comments

A great signing with only the risk of injury as a downer

Always seems right there, but can’t complete the deal. Still he has skills to work with that you can’t deny. On a one year deal at the price point he signed for, it is fine

Now what happens if he has a career year and puts it all together? My guess is the team might just let him walk and collect the comp pick later?
Or you hold your breath a sign him to a 3 year deal with a team off ramp. Still it would be a nice problem to have

B+ for now

I haven’t seen any details about an injury clause in his contract. That would be a determining factor on the grade of this signing.

If he can play 16 games at a high level, this would be the best signing of the offseason.

HUGE if

Good signing

Hopefully he can stay healthy and perform at a high level where a multi-year extension is warranted. The Skins signed players who have high upside potential – Darby included – hopefully many will make the final roster.

I think this was about as good a way to fill the void left by Dunbar as could be hoped

Darby is a pro, has good ball skills, and has the speed to run with any WR. When I was studying the Eagles games for last year’s Ranking The NFCE series, it was evident how much the Eagles relied on Darby’s speed to make up for poor tackling and coverage busts elsewhere in the secondary. He essentially acted as a second FS while playing on the boundary, often able to limit receptions made elsewhere on the field by speeding over there in time to make a tackle. His biggest weakness was his tackling ability and his run defense. He whiffed on a lot of tackles in space, and often isn’t physical enough to bring down a RB who had a full head of steam. Still, I think this weakness can be minimized if he’s playing press man and running in a hip-trail technique as you mention. That way, he’s in a position to make plays on the ball rather than having to tackle a man in space. It’ll probably be a style of play that results in few INTs, but also takes that WR out of the play. He’ll also be helped by having a competent FS helping him out, so he doesn’t have to make those tackles elsewhere on the field.

He isn’t going to be a big INT guy regardless of scheme anyway

That’s not his game. He has bad hands and isn’t the best at tracking the ball – someone posted a scouting report saying that he can’t find the ball in the air and should just watch the receiver instead.

His game is blazing speed (easily the fastest Redskins DB) and tracking the receiver down the field. If he can take away the other team’s speed receiver, that is an enormous contribution to the D. I am sick of watching speed guys work Norman and others over, game after game.

With Darby and Fabian Moreau, we might have the fastest pair of boundary CBs in the NFL

Add to that Jimmy Moreland

Dude ran a 4.44 40 time. It will be interesting to see what happens with him. This past season we were playing him in the slot but I think we can agree that is where fuller thrives. Back in College I think he was a boundary guy so hopefully he’s got the versatility Rons been wanting.

Imagine that

Darby has good ball skills?!

April 1st is April fools, not March 31st. The rest of what you said was good though so kudos for the rest of your comment.

Broadcast footage is no good for analyzing every play but if they have replays of a play than it can be useful. This video is evidence of Darby’s poor tackling (found at 1:51). Unfortunately they don’t show they second time he got burned in replay, but for those interested in what can be seen that is at (5:04). Part of the problem was that Jim Schwartz doesn’t give help over the top to corners (usually running a cover 3 man) so if they get beat over the top or miss a tackle it’s a house call..

Yeah, "ball skills" wasn't the right term

What I meant is more that he’s generally where he’s supposed to be. He positions himself in the right place to guard his man or zone, and he positions his body well to break up or deny passes. Not sure what the term for that is.

Ahh yeah I got you

Yeah I suppose he was often in the right place, just wasn’t good at making the play.

Like the signing

People are forgetting that last year was his first back from ACL. That put additional stress on other parts of his leg which likely led to the other nagging stuff last year as well as being a step slower while still recovering. The injury the year before was a dislocated ankle which is a freak injury and not something that should be considered as part of being injury prone.

This year he’s more removed from the 2 major injuries and they signed him to a prove it deal. If he is back to pre injury form the only hard part will be retaining him after the season.

Upside

VERY HIGH UPSIDE. Enough said

Expecting

A finished product after 3 years of injury ? And his age, at 4m?. His faults can be worked on.

He's almost a 6 year vet

Habits are already formed there.

Point making is multiple

Years of injuries, showed a ton of promise. I’m a believer in his skills if he is healthy. I’m also a firm believer in schemes and positioning/coaching to put players in position to grow and succeed. I would not be surprised if quite a few of the guys signed show out this year if healthy. I’m more intrigued pre draft than normal. So many scenarios can shape the future if this franchise! I believe RR is doing his past to change the culture and let young guys compete.

This was the post I had in mind in my comment above

Hahaha!

Hahaha! Luckily, we getting PREDATOR, ball getting out QB hand in 2.3 sec ,thats under 10 yards…HTTR!

Hahahaha!!

We’re going with the guy with the biblical name: Isiah 20:20! Hahahaha! Shock the world!!! Forward thinking!! Hahahaa!! Kelce is shut down!! Haha!!!

This is fun!

You're with KSFGM on using #2 on Simmons over Young?

Yes I Am.

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