The Buffalo Bills’ defense was inconsistent throughout the 2015 season as they transitioned to Rex Ryan’s hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme. So, going into the offseason and most notably the 2016 NFL Draft, it’s likely that the team will look to acquire defenders that fit the archetypes for the positions needed for Ryan’s system to thrive. Today, we’ll take a look at Duke safety Jeremy Cash.
Jeremy Cash was a two-time All-American safety for the Duke Blue Devils. Cash is one of the more exciting playmakers in all of college football, lining up all over the field– as traditional strong or free safety, an outside linebacker, a defensive end or a slot cornerback. His versatility and knack for making plays in a variety of ways is reminiscent of Troy Polamalu and could be an intriguing option for the Buffalo Bills when the 2016 NFL Draft approaches.
In the last three seasons, Duke’s captain has recorded 333 tackles, 38 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, six interceptions, 15 pass breakups and forced four fumbles. According to ProFootballFocus, his 46 stops are most among safeties. His 18 tackles for loss are an outstanding number for defensive backs, and he’s the only defensive back that ranks in the top 100 of that category.
Rex Ryan’s defense features a wide variety of fronts, using disguise and multiple alignments in order to confuse opposing quarterbacks and that’s exactly what Cash does as the “Strike Safety” in Duke’s defense.
Jeremy Cash has ideal size for the safety position, standing 6’2” and weighing 215 pounds. He’s strong and has a long frame that allows him to use that length to disengage from blockers in addition to positioning himself on receivers to make plays on the ball.
A fifth-year senior that graduated with a degree in psychology, Cash is an intelligent player both on and off the field. He’s instinctive and understands the subtle nuances of the game, particularly the timing of blitzes and taking correct angles on ball-carriers.
One of the best run defenders in the nation, Cash does a great job maneuvering through traffic and displaying great closing speed to bring down running backs. In the following play, Cash is lined up as a linebacker against Florida State’s “12” personnel (1 RB, 2 TE, 2 WR). Cash cheats up to the line of scrimmage before the snap, but as the Seminoles run to the right, he changes direction quickly before jump-cutting away from the oncoming offensive linemen and makes a great tackle that results in a minimal gain.
Cash often lines up in the slot, where he’s in position to play the run or rush the passer. His strength, closing speed and instincts are used best here, as he can not only set the edge on rushes in his direction, but he can chase down running backs from the backside as well. Here against the Miami Hurricanes, Cash is a slot defender to the left of the defensive formation and is seeing “12” personnel with two tight ends to the left side of the offensive formation– one on the line of scrimmage and the other as an H-Back behind the left tackle. Cash knows that this is likely a run play due to the formation. He times the snap perfectly and chases down the running back, bringing him down at the line of scrimmage.
Against North Carolina he does the exact same thing.
In the following clip, Cash is aligned as an outside linebacker against the Hurricanes. Miami using a pulling tight end to cut-block him, but Cash is able to avoid the block and still make an amazing play for no gain.
Jeremy Cash is such a treat to watch because it seems like he’s a step ahead of opposing offenses at all times. Here, he’s aligned wide as a slot defender to the right of the defensive formation over Virginia Tech’s wideout. Seconds before the snap he creeps inside and explodes through the line of scrimmage just as the ball is snapped, tackling the running back immediately after receiving the handoff for a loss.
The read option has taken the NFL and NCAA by storm over the last few years, so when facing a team with a mobile quarterback, defenders must be conscious of it at all times. Here against North Carolina, Cash is lined up as a single-high safety and the Tarheels are in the shotgun with a running back to the right of quarterback Marquise Williams, an athletic freak that’s a threat on the ground. As Williams fakes the handoff, Cash doesn’t even acknowledge the running back and takes a great angle to bring him down for no gain.
Jeremy Cash is the most efficient pass rusher in college football, notching three sacks, 11 QB Hits and 15 QB hurries in just 67 blitz attempts (per PFF) a ridiculous feat.
Against Georgia Tech, Cash is lined up on the line of scrimmage and is showing blitz from the right side of the defensive formation. He crashes down into the offensive line, but as the quarterback rolls to the left, Cash disengages and is able to chase him down for a sack.
Cash doesn’t have the blazing speed or range that you’d like from a deep safety, but he does an excellent job defending underneath and intermediate zones and makes up for his lack of speed with intelligence and an understanding of route concepts.
In the following play, Cash is a slot cornerback and Virginia Tech runs a screen to his side of the field. He avoids the cut block attempt and is able to record a tackle for loss.
In the same game, Cash is in the slot playing man coverage against a comeback route. He’s able to use his length to position himself in front of the receiver and break up the pass.
Fit With Bills
Jeremy Cash is a outstanding player that will be a valuable asset to any defense needing a physical, versatile strong safety. He’s an every down player with a skill set that would allow a creative defensive-minded coach like Rex Ryan to do some unique things with him. Due to his lack of top-flight range, he’ll need a quality free safety behind him– which the Bills have in Corey Graham, Aaron Williams and Baccari Rambo– in order for Cash to truly flourish. Due to the variety of skills brought to the table, teams will look past his small limitations in favor of the potentially elite playmaking ability that Cash brings to the table.