Rashaan Melvin signed with the Raiders this off-season on a 1-year, $6.5 million deal. I wasn't familiar at all with Melvin who came out of unheralded Northern Illinois University as an Undrafted Free Agent and bounced around the NFL for 2 seasons before sticking in Indianapolis. At 6'2", 195 pounds Melvin fits the body type of the cornerbacks cut from the roster this off-season (Amerson 6'1", Smith 6'2"). I decided to take a look at his game to see how he might fit on the Raiders.
On this play Melvin travels inside with DeAndre Hopkins--who for my money is one of the toughest covers in football. Hopkins' game is built on bullying defensive backs and physical releases off the line. Melvin is ready for the challenge and maintains inside leverage while sitting in a trail position, blanketing Hopkins route from start to finish.
Here is another example of disciplined man coverage by Melvin matched up against the man who would become his future teammate, Jordy Nelson. Two things stand out on this play. First when Aaron Rodgers starts to move out of the pocket, this is when defenders get killed because its so easy to lose focus vs a scrambling (and perhaps future HOF) QB. Melvin doesn't flinch and is in perfect phase when the ball arrives. Next Melvin punches the ball out at the catch-point. The best corners always attack the receivers hands and so far Melvin has put this on film over and over again.
Melvin isn't just a press corner, he is capable of playing off as well. He was gifted 2 interceptions in this game vs Deshone Kizer (RIP) but this was his best play on the ball. His slow pedal at the beginning of the clip is intended to keep him in play vs a ball thrown at the sticks. Melvin reads receiver body language and anticipates the out route, again disrupting the catch point vs a large frame receiver.
Aggressive Run Support
On this play vs Pittsburgh in 2016, Melvin shows he is fearless and will "stick his face in the fan" so to speak. There are a lot of examples of Melvin throwing his body around with little regard for his own well-being and form tackling ball carriers, gotta love how he upends the best RB in the league. Low man wins, Leveon.
This is a bonafide highlight reel run stop vs 2 pro-bowlers on a playoff team. Melvin sets up Conklin beautifully by giving himself enough room to make an inside move without giving up the outside vs the run game. Melvin gets his head across Derrick Henry's thigh, and wraps up for a form tackle that doesn't get much more textbook at game speed. If you watch Melvin you cannot deny he is a great tackler at the CB position. He's good for a couple plays like this a game.
When Jon Gruden gave his first press conference he said he would lead the league in effort and would expect his players to do the same. Melvin likely earned points from Gruden with plays like this against the Chiefs. Lined up at the top of the frame, Melvin initially is blocked on this play. Instead of expecting his teammates to make the play, Melvin walks the receiver down and saves a sure TD.
This is the perfect play by Aaron Rodgers and company against the Colts defense. Jordy Nelson's alignment on this play is intended to give him a free release because he is so close to the other WR that Melvin who is in man coverage has to back off (or risk getting rubbed). Nelson runs across the middle of the field, literally the hardest route for Melvin to reach but somehow he gets there and makes the tackle near the sticks.
Okay this play is actually on a Rashaan Melvin highlight reel. I might be nit-picking but I have a serious pet-peeve when NFL DB's don't get their head around. Melvin is perfect in every other area of this coverage, balanced and patient from press, doesn't guess or give the WR an easy release and I love to see him bully this smaller guy down the field. He again disrupts the catch-point by attacking the WRs hands. But you can see Melvin start to panic when he thinks the WR might be taking off and instead of trusting his training and getting his head around when 13 goes up for the ball, he just throws his hands up. This pops up again and again in Melvin's tape and I fear he might turn out to be PBU king unless he can consistently turn that head.
Another area where Melvin can improve is his footwork. Often times with longer CB's they can struggle changing direction and get their feet "stuck." Melvin is lined up at the bottom of the screen in this clip in press coverage. I like that he stays patient at the WRs release but patience turns into paralysis as Melvin fails to keep his feet hot and is not ready to stay in phase against the slant route. I saw Melvin's feet get stuck from time to time, this is an area he can continue working on.
I came away from this film dive pretty encouraged by Melvin's play. I'm showcasing mostly his strengths here and I am very aware that he is not a perfect CB by any means but I'll go so far as to say he is the best CB the Raiders have had since Stanford Route was at his best. Reggie McKenzie doesn't exactly have a great track record signing free agent corners and I have been critical with his pick-ups in the past, but not this time.
Even if Melvin does not improve he will be a feisty, hard nosed player on the outside and can be an example for the younger DBs of how an UDFA made it in the NFL with toughness and tenacity. Hopefully his presence helps Conley elevate his game and these two can be a formidable tandem this season.