What the Philadelphia Eagles Should Expect from New Cornerback Bradley Fletcher
If you're a Philadelphia Eagles fan who also watches big NFL games not involving the Eagles, you're most definitely familiar with new cornerback Cary Williams, who played a huge role as the Baltimore Ravens went on their Super Bowl run in 2012.
But fellow newbie Bradley Fletcher isn't the household name that Williams is. That has a lot to do with Fletcher having played in St. Louis, missing the majority of the 2011 season due to a knee injury and being lost in the shuffle in 2012 due to the arrival of Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins.
But there are clues that Fletcher is sneaky good. Pro Football Focus records how many yards cornerbacks surrender on a per-snap basis. Since 2010, only about 20 corners per year have given up fewer than one yard per cover snap, and Fletcher's been under that mark in all three seasons.
In fact, in 2012, the 0.52 yards he gave up per cover snap was the lowest average in the NFL.
Numbers like those are fun, but to get a better feel for the 26-year-old former third-round pick out of Iowa, I wanted to go beyond the stats. I watched his defensive reps with St. Louis over the last three years and drew some conclusions about him.
He's rarely lets anyone get past him
In his last 20 games, Fletcher has surrendered only two touchdowns in coverage. He has the speed, size and strength to stick with almost any receiver.
A pair of my favorite examples came prior to this past season. The first was against the Arizona Cardinals in 2010, when Fletcher was all over one of the best receivers in football, Larry Fitzgerald, leading to an interception.
He gets penalized a lot
Fletcher is very physical in coverage, which is a big reason why he has taken 16 penalties in 36 games since the start of 2010. His coverage numbers wouldn't look so good if not for those plays. It's not as though he's having to tug on opposing receivers to keep up, but he just gets too handsy.
He has good instincts
Fletcher wrapped up a victory over the Seattle Seahawks this past season when he broke off coverage against Golden Tate to step up and intercept a desperate Russell Wilson pass. He did a great job of reading Wilson's eyes.
Fletcher takes chances, but he rarely stutters.
He sometimes has cement hands
Fletcher had only one interception in 2012, but that total should have been at least three. He dropped an easy one in the end zone against the Detroit Lions in Week 1 and then did the exact same thing on a Robert Griffin III pass in Week 2.
Fletcher is a guy who brings a lot of passion on Sundays.
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