Come July, one of the most heated training camp battles is sure to be that of the starting cornerback spot opposite Chris Houston. 2013 second round choice Darius Slay was a minicamp media darling, while seasoned veteran Ron Bartell played a lot of snaps with the first team. A healthy Bill Bentley will probably be in the mix as well, though his skill set and measurables make him a better fit inside. Chris Greenwood, who has yet to see live snaps due to injury, is “the most gifted guy in the secondary,” at least according to teammate Bartell.
Lost but not forgotten in all the speculation is second year player Jonte Green. Green was forced to start five games, a tall order for the sixth round draft choice from New Mexico State. Based on evaluation of his college play, it’s no surprise Green wasn’t ready for prime time. However, it’s clear the physical tools are there for him to be an effective starter on the outside if he can improve some of the technical aspects of his game, particularly when pressing at the LOS and at the top of the stem.
Here’s an excerpt from my 2012 scouting report, where I gave Green a 6.1 D (5th round developmental prospect with starter potential):
STRENGTHS: Adequate height with good bulk and functional strength. Possesses the quickness, agility and balance to mirror receivers in and out of breaks. Excellent play speed and can stay with any receiver downfield. Accelerates to top speed quickly when breaking vs. underneath passes. Flies up the field aggressively in run support. Solid, wrap-up tackler who consistently brings his man down. Gives top effort from snap to whistle.
WEAKNESSES: Press technique is raw. Needs to do a better job of jamming at the line to re-route receivers. Lacks ideal instincts and route recognition skills; struggles anticipating breaks and will allow separation. Is a beat late breaking on the ball from Off/Zone. Ball skills need improvement – doesn’t time his jump well or aggressively attack the ball in the air.
SUMMARY: Though he’s not ready to be a day one starter, Jonte’s physical tools and competitive nature give him a high ceiling. Certainly he possesses the speed, quick feet and lateral agility to effectively mirror NFL receivers in tight M/M. However, his Press Man technique is raw and needs refinement. Another area Jonte needs to improve is his route recognition skills as he struggles anticipating breaks, allowing separation. And while his ability to track the ball vertically improved his senior year, he still needs to work on his ability to look, lean and highpoint the ball. Where Jonte excels is vs. the run, where he consistently attacks ball carriers aggressively and brings his man down on contact. Though he’ll clearly need time to develop, Jonte possesses the necessary physical tools and competitiveness to be a solid number two corner if he can improve the mental side of his game. Fifth round developmental prospect.
The development of this raw, but physically talented player certainly bears watching when training camp starts.