When the final 53 man roster was released this weekend, many observers were scratching their heads about one player in particular who survived the final cut. While many fans and pundits alike were surprised to see Keelan Doss and Anthony Rush released, the addition of a little known safety out of Utah State, Dallin Leavitt made the moves all the more harder for some to understand.
Mike Mayock addressed Leavitt’s spot on the roster acknowledging Leavitt’s special teams contributions as the primary reason he was kept on the roster. This makes sense considering Leavitt played 77 snaps on special teams this preseason meanwhile fan favorites Anthony Rush played 2 special teams snaps and Keelan Doss logged zero.
Leavitt’s special teams ability is great but what does he add to the defensive side of the ball? Leavitt played both safety spots during the preseason lets take a look at how he fared.
Playing in the box
Leavitt is playing over the tight end in this clip above. This look usually means the strong safety is responsible for a gap in the run game. Leavitt sees the tight end block the linebacker out and shoots into the open gap. He can’t get the ball carrier down however and misses the tackle in the backfield.
This play against the Rams shows Leavitt in man coverage against the slot receiver near the bottom of the screen. Well the cornerback is in man coverage but Leavitt plays it like zone. The receiver gets loose behind him for a big gain.
We all know by now that defensive coordinator Paul Guenther utilized the blitz heavily against the Cardinals. This play is one such situation and the Raiders defense are in a cover 0 blitz. Leavitt is in man coverage against the TE and what you might expect happens when a 5’10 guy is covering a 6’4 guy. Leavitt is sticky, plays his hands through the catch point and tries to rake the ball out but just simply gets outmuscled by the much bigger player.
Okay stop worrying Raider Nation, the good news is Leavitt looks much better playing from a deeper alignment. This open field tackle against the Cardinals is one of 4 open field stops he made this preseason. His tackling is likely what kept him on this roster and is a skill that transfers over to 4th downs.
The Raiders safety is just a blur on this play so I won’t mark it up. Did you see that runningback flip over a fire hydrant? That was actually Leavitt coming from depth and tracking the ball carrier’s inside shoulder. Being able to make open field stops at full speed is how you make an NFL roster as a bubble safety.
Leavitt is solid in coverage from depth as well. He had 2 pass break ups on this drive against the Cardinals. He pedals out of a potential disguised coverage before the snap and breaks on this jump ball to the left sideline.
DE Josh Mauro being released after the Raiders claimed QB DeShone Kizer off waivers, suggests Leavitt’s spot isn’t as temporary as some believed. If he survives past the initial week of roster movement the real test will come once the Raiders are forced to decide whether or not to activate Nevin Lawson from the suspended list.
Right now the battle for the 4th safety spot is between Leavitt and Curtis Riley. Read my film break down of Riley here. Riley is probably a slightly better athlete and cover man than Leavitt. At the same time, Leavitt is definitely the better tackler which helps him because his roster spot hinges on his special teams contributions. Don’t be surprised if Leavitt lasts longer than Riley on the active roster.