Zo huddle
Photo Credit: The Athletic

FSM Presents: Zo Huddle: Why Trevon Moehrig, Not Jeff Heath, is The Better Safety Fit Moving Forward

Franchise Sports Media

The Las Vegas Raiders announced they were parting ways with their best ball-hawk from last season. But the Zo Huddle is here to tell you, his replacement – who happens to be the second draft choice by the Silver and Black – has the traits to be the better option.  

 

Statistically speaking, Jeff Heath was considered a bright spot for the Raiders’ defense given his team-high three interceptions.

Field-wise, however, Heath was still labeled a liability in coverage. Plus, he posted his numbers in a defense that was one of the league’s worst units and ended up sending their defensive coordinator to the unemployment line.

Hence why the Silver and Black traded up in the second round to bolster the safety position in Trevon Moehrig of Texas Christian University.

The Zo Huddle looks back on what Heath did, but what the TCU Horned Frog Moehrig can bring to the table that Heath couldn’t.

 

Heath’s picks and how they came to be 

 

Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Raiders Wire

Let’s start here. If you scrutinize Heath’s three picks, they were primarily a result of being Johnny-On-The-Spot and bad decision-making by the quarterbacks he faced.

This does include Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes. In the upset of the Chiefs on Oct. 11, Mahomes not only forces the ball near three Raiders defenders, but Heath happens to be in that crowd and snatches the pick.

The Raiders operated in Cover Six during that takeaway. Cover six operates with two deep safeties. From what I saw in film study, Heath lacked the speed to be trusted as the single high safety in any coverage. But again, Heath gets bailed out by a Raiders’ defense that threw the coverage on Mahomes.

Heath then picks off Denver’s Drew Lock twice. On the first pick, again, Heath benefits from being a part of a trio of Silver and Black defenders playing the field deep. Lock overthrows his intended target, and the ball lands in Heath’s hands. The biggest mistake Lock makes, however, is staring down the safety:

 

 

 

 

 

The second pick saw Heath play a shorter field – when the Raiders were pinned inside the red zone and the time was winding down to halftime. Heath sits on the slant route then reacted to the ball. But it’s a predictable pick for two reasons: The route and Lock giving away where the ball is heading by locking his eyes to his left. Safety coaches always tell their guys to read the QB’s eyes as your indicator of where the ball is heading. Lock makes that mistake by zeroing in toward his left for more than a second, and Heath pounces on the ball:

 

 

 

 

But long story short, Heath had the assist of QB mistakes and not being placed in a single-high look. The new Raiders’ scheme under Gus Bradley will feature a 4-2-5 wrinkle…and that includes the safeties sometimes playing man coverage, which was not a strength on Heath’s end.

 

Where Moehrig comes in  

 

The Raiders Realist
Photo Credit: TCU Athletics

To reiterate, the Raiders moved up in the second round of the draft five spots to nab the TCU standout Moehrig at No. 43 overall. That is an indicator that they were extremely high on what he could do in their defense.

And one anonymous scout told Bob McGinn of The Athletic that Moehrig is a high-caliber draft pick.

“I don’t remember the last safety that could both tackle and cover,” the scout told McGinn. “That conference (Big 12) probably is the best passing conference in football, and he was really good. He covered the slot most of the time. There are very few safeties that can actually cover. I’d try him at corner just to see if he could play out there.”

Another scout, one who represented the NFC, added: “He’s the only safety that I think can possibly go in the first round. He has a real good skill set other than short arms. He can get the ball. He has (cornerback) feet. He’s not a killer, but he can get people down in space. Good football player.”

His ball skills were what got NFL teams, including the Raiders, to be enamored with him. It’s one thing to collect seven interceptions and break up 28 passes in a three-year collegiate career. But Moehrig was putting those numbers up against Air Raid offenses in the Big 12. Twenty-eight PBU’s in a 34-game span means 82.35% of his games saw Moehrig disrupt the pass. Five of his seven career picks came during conference play…all against teams that were again pass-first.

His angles, instincts, and hands got him to thrive in TCU’s 4-2-5 and in one of the more pass-heavy conferences in the nation.

But outside of the ball skills, Moehrig brings this element that wasn’t seen much from Heath: Man coverage. A prime example is against Texas, where he picks up the slot target, and the play ends in a PBU:

 

 

 

 

 

That’s not all. Here’s when you know Moehrig’s film study is in solid shape. Texas tries to throw an inside cross look on Moehrig’s side. With a slot CB already lined up on the slot WR, Moehrig here can either not worry about one or the other wideout and play deep or pick up the deepest route. The Longhorns’ WR blazes past Moehrig’s teammate then works his way to Moehrig. However, the TCU safety masterfully pulls off the following: Picking up the route and not getting fooled by the double move. The play ends like this:

 

 

 

Overall

This is not me saying Heath was horrible during his time in Sin City. He made key plays but played on a defense that didn’t force many takeaways and was among the worst at defending the pass. An overhaul was needed, including new personnel.

Hence the aggressive move to trade up for Moehrig.

 

Honestly, I’ll take a safety who is already used to playing the pass and became a Jim Thorpe Award winner (given to the nation’s best CFB safety) doing his mix of covering, intercepting and pass breaking.

 

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Lorenzo J. Reyna – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Zo on Twitter: @LJ_Reyna

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