Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio NFL Lens showcases one of two red zone pass defenses from Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo that prevented a touchdown.
Andrew Sendejo isn’t one of the top cover safeties in football but he’s a smart player who understands angles and plays with violence. One of the most important skills for a defensive back in the NFL is playing the football when the receiver has earned enough separation to make the catch.
Most fans who know Sendejo’s game will think of his big hits. However, he also possesses craft.
Slot receiver Jamison Crowder will always beat Sendejo in the red zone when given enough time to change direction and work free. However, Sendejo not only that Crowder will get a free opportunity to get his hands on the ball but also knows his only shot is to jar the ball loose.
Note the approach Sendejo uses to punch the ball loose. This is an uppercut delivered as close to the chest and facemask as possible. Once he hits facemask, Sendejo swipes his arm just enough to jar the ball. However, the most important movement is the upward motion tight to Crowder’s chest and all the way to the player’s line of sight.
Sendejo isn’t trying for pinpoint punch. Instead of trying to prevent the catch, he’s working to control the space where Crowder wants to retract the ball. When defending a receiver, you have to know that catching the ball is a process of gaining position, extension, making contact with the ball, controlling it, and securing it.
Sometimes it’s best to concede the early stages of the process in order to set up an obstacle that interferes with its later stages.
As with most contests, the player who reacts one step ahead of his opponent earns the advantage.
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