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Raiders Film Room: Grading Trayvon Mullen’s performance over the past 3 weeks

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NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We last checked in on Trayvon Mullen after he was named the starter in the wake of the Gareon Conley trade. Since then, Mullen has grown into a sure contributor with the way he competes on the outside. His play hasn’t been perfect, but the highs outweigh the lows and he has been a bright spot in a banged up secondary.

Let’s take a look at the last 3 weeks, every time he has been targeted to break his game down. Look for footwork, press coverage vs off coverage, and finding the ball in the air.

Week 13: Challenged by the Chiefs

Mullen has a pretty good week against the Chiefs. They tried him but he finished strong.

  • The first two clips are dropped passes, so he gets bailed out there.
  • The third clip at the 10 second mark is his biggest error in my opinion. Out of a bunch set, he needs to force the screen back inside. But when the ball carrier stutters, he gets sucked into traffic and gives up the edge.
  • The two pass breakups against Tyreek Hill are great examples of the CB Mullen can turn into. The first one is out of press. It’s not a great re-route, but he stays in phase and is able to play up through the hands, forcing a last-second incompletion. The second one out of off coverage is gold; Perfectly times the break and gets the pass breakup. Mullen has made this play consistently in 2019.
  • The pass interference call that took his interception away is unfortunate. Can’t argue with the call too much because he clearly holds the guy, but I’m not mad at it because he’s competing and he’s not shying away from the physicality of the game.

Week 14: Titans take him down a notch

Week 14 was rough for Mullen. He was only targeted 5 times but he gives up 4 catches and a TD. The other 3 catches went for first downs. First thing to realize is how many of these plays come out of bunch or reduced sets. Mullen can play off man, but he’s best in press man when he can control the opposing receiver’s release from the beginning of the play.

  • On the first play, he loses balance and rallies too late to prevent the first down catch.
  • The second play shows the Titans try him on a double move, but when he breaks on the ball he is able to realize the intention of the play, staying on top of the out-and-up.
  • The third play is a play action pass, so the LB he thinks will help out isn’t there. Still needs to maintain his leverage better and maybe that one doesn’t go for such a long gain.
  • There’s no excuse for the fourth play. AJ Brown runs the slant, and Mullen has to make that tackle. This is the only TD he’s given up since Week 10 (blown coverage against the Chargers).
  • On the last play his technique breaks down and turns too early. He can stay in his backpedal longer and break on this route.

Week 15: Tames Jaguars receivers

I’ll let the play do the talking in this one. Mullen was nearly flawless against Jacksonville. The instant replay view was the only mis-step, but its debatable. You can’t see it from that angle, but he is widening out to the flat because Fournette is releasing like he did on the two previous plays. But Mullen is all the way outside the numbers and Fournette is still inside the numbers. If he doesn’t widen so much, he has a chance to make a play on the ball.

One of the pass breakups on the sideline was called pass interference, but that’s a crap call. Overall, Mullen put the straps on these Jaguars receivers and competed with them from the first snap to the last. The last pass breakup is perhaps his best play as a pro, not due to the level of difficulty, but because the moment was so critical. With the Jaguars knocking on the door, Mullen breaks up a pass and gives his team another chance to close out. Too bad it was all for nothing. But the eye in the sky won’t forget the plays Mullen has made.

How Mullen grades out

Footwork grade: B-

It’s obvious from watching Mullen that he is really working on his technique and becoming a professional. Whether it’s taking leverage steps or flat steps to mirror the release of the WR, or the way he plants and drives on the ball, Mullen has gotten better since the start of the season. For every false step Mullen takes, he makes it up with a couple great plays where his footwork puts him in a position to make a play on the ball.

Press coverage: B+

This is definitely where Mullen is the most comfortable. He almost always gets his hands on receivers and re-routes them before blanketing them down the field. He hasn’t allowed a catch out of press over the past 6 weeks. The only reason Mullen doesn’t get an A in this department is because of all the pass interference penalties he’s getting. Some of that is on the refs, but he’s also getting grabby. If he improves in this area, he has a chance to turn into one of the better press corners in the NFL.

Off Coverage: C

Mullen isn’t bad in off coverage. Some of his best plays this season have come out of a backpedal. But he just isn’t consistent in this area yet. Right now he needs to get a better feel for route combinations and anticipating when he’ll need to sift through traffic from an off position. That said, he has the ability to transition forward that is uncommon of CBs his size. Once he puts it all together it won’t be so easy to scheme completions against him.

Finding the ball: A

This is the best part of Mullen’s game. When the ball is in the air, Mullen knows and he won’t be surprised. He does such a great job getting his head around, which is the only way he can be successful with his style of play. There will be times when he gets grabby with the receiver, but because he’s looking for the ball the refs may not call it. This is a great skill for Mullen to already have a great feel for because it is the least easy to improve compared to the aforementioned parts of his game.