Over the years the Dallas Cowboys have gone out of their way to find top-end CB talent, and over the years that talent has been disappointing to say the least. But one CB has always been there, playing up to (or above) expectations, willing to compete even when playing time looked bleak. That man is Orlando Scandrick.
It’s easy to take CB Orlando Scandrick for granted. The 4th round pick out of Boise State has quietly built a hell of a career in Dallas. Perpetually cast as the 3rd CB in the nickel role, Scandy has finally established himself as the best CB on the Dallas Cowboys.
In the seven years he’s been a pro, the 27 year old Scandrick has been a reliable force in the often dysfunctional secondary. Scandy isn’t flashy in the traditional sense … or even the statistical sense. In seven seasons, Orlando has collected only 7 interceptions. His distaste for the football inspired this article prior to the season: Scandrick is Good but not a Playmaker. The article was not meant to be a back-handed complement, but rather a statement of realism and praise to one of the best defensive players on the roster. In other words, stop wanting him to be someone he’s not and accept him for what he is – a damn good football player.
2014 provided another opportunity for Scandrick to show exactly how good and how valuable he is to this team. Couple his stellar performance with his always-reasonable price tag, and you have a Dallas Cowboys’ Defensive MVP candidate (to be announced here on Tuesday).
Grading Orlando Scandrick’s 2014 Performance
Breaking down film and grading each play is something that sounds easier in theory than it is in reality. It’s not always obvious what a particular player’s assignment is on every single play. He may have traditional zone coverage on one play and man coverage the next play. Sometimes he’s playing man while others are playing zone which further complicates grading since the assignments change as the play develops. Just because he’s the closest defender to the play, doesn’t mean it was his primary responsibility. Recognizing this obstacle (unknown assignments and coverage) is very important in player grading and something I try to be sure of before casting blame or heaping praise.
In my film reviews this year, I watched and re-watched game film to ascertain assignments and execution. Every game except for the Thanksgiving Day Annihilation by the Eagles was reviewed and graded. I used a -3 to a +3 scale for game grades and averaged those scores for final 2014 Player Grades.
Pro Football Focus (subscription required) is another resource that breaks down film and grades plays. If they are unsure on a particular assignment on a given play, they simply do not grade it. For final end-of-year scores, PFF adds it all up. As a result, there numbers are much higher than my averages, and are largely uncapped play to play. Because of this, I’ll try to apply some context to their grades (relative to the team and the players around the league).
When player evaluation is based on each play and not a post-game stat sheet, this process is very important, or one may misrepresent a player’s performance. With all of that said…
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Orlando Scandrick had a team MVP worthy performance in 2014. The 5’10” 195lb CB established himself as the best outside cornerback and inside nickel back on the team. He even rated as my highest defensive back on the Cowboys roster when grouping all DBs together.
With only 2 interceptions, 1 sack, and 50 tackles, Scandy wasn’t exactly a statistical juggernaut, but for those who really pay attention (and grade each play whether consequential or not), Orlando Scandrick had a fantastic year.
On my -3 thru +3 scale, I rated Scandy at a 1.5 year-end average. He ranked moderate-to-high scores in coverage, high scores in critical playmaking (playing strong at key moments), and moderate in pass-rush. Pro Football Focus thought so much of Orlando Scandrick that they ranked him as their 10th best CB in the NFL last season, that’s obviously behind All-Pro CBs Richard Sherman (3rd) and Darrelle Revis (4th), but it’s ahead of players like Aqib Talib (16th), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (17th), and Joe Haden (28th).
Grading CBs is difficult when you consider tackling, pass-rushing, and coverage, with equal weight. Orlando Scandrick rarely gets burned and is often in excellent position when executing his assignments. Unfortunately Scandy still allows a ridiculous amount of completions even with his solid positioning. In 2014, opposing QBs completed over 74% of passes against Scandrick. Ideally you’d like your CBs holding QBs to something in the 50s but since Scandy moves inside to the nickel against 3 receiver sets, the inflated number is somewhat understandable.
As we’ve discussed in the past (in great length), Scandrick is not a ballhawk and because of this opposing QBs like to target him. He may offer the best coverage on the team, but without a threat of interception, QBs are more attracted to the consequence-free option from Boise State.
Dec 21, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts running back Daniel Herron (36) runs with the ball against Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick (32) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Tackling and Pass-Rush
I’ve always liked Scandrick’s tenacity and open-field tackling. He doesn’t always grade out well but he’s aggressive and I’ve always respected that considering his size. Rod Marinelli likes to use DBs as occasional pass-rushers and has taken a liking to Scandrick being that rusher (Most likely that’s because it’s easier to disguise a blitz from the nickel spot).
If there is a free shot at the QB, Scandrick will usually take advantage of it and attack and execute as well as any DB in the league, but when a TE or HB stays in pass-protect, Scandy all-too-often pulls up and willingly accepts the block.
Orlando Scandrick X-Factor
Orlando Scandrick’s best skill is his ability to play anywhere in the secondary. He’s able to play from the outside CB spots as well as the nickel, and executes assignments with confidence. His intelligence and preparation are by far the best we’ve seen from a DB in Dallas for years. Smart and versatile players are always valuable commodities on teams intent on re-building (which the Cowboys are on defense).
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