I write this with caution as I’m sure Las Vegas Raiders fans won’t take kindly to giving a player from the Kansas City Chiefs some praise. However, cornerback is one of the Raiders’ top offseason needs, and Chiefs’ corner L’Jarius Sneed projects to be one of the best options available in free agency.
Sneed has been a thorn in opposing offenses’ sides all season as he was targeted 90 times and allowed just 45 completions for 435 and zero touchdowns while breaking up 11 passes and interception to more, according to Pro Football Focus.
L'Jarius Sneed undercuts the route and makes a nice grab for the pick pic.twitter.com/ahGEa94WPU— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) January 16, 2024
Kansas City dials up the heat with a Cover 0 call which puts Sneed on an island against Philadelphia’s best receiver, A.J. Brown.
The corner does a good job of working to maintain his outside leverage and gets into a trail position so that the quarterback; Jalen Hurts, has to throw over the top of him as the blitz starts to hit home. Sneed also does a good job of keeping his eyes on Hurts and using his peripheral vision and instincts to recognize the post route from Brown.
Hurts tries to throw the ball flat instead of over the top but since Sneed was reading the quarterback and stayed underneath Brown, the corner can undercut the route and dig the ball out to make an interception on the underthrow.
L'Jarius Sneed with a beautiful rep on an island against A.J. Brown pic.twitter.com/nQObR47Vtb— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) January 16, 2024
Since the Eagles are in a four-by-one set with Brown on the single receiver side of the formation, Sneed and Brown are going to be matched up in one-on-one coverage again. The biggest difference between this clip and the last one is the corner playing press coverage instead of being off the line of scrimmage.
Sneed does an excellent job of matching Brown’s speed throughout the route so that he doesn’t get beat by a curl or quick back shoulder throw right at the sticks while, simultaneously, staying in position to defend against the go route.
From there, he keeps eyes on Brown and looks to play the receiver’s hands at the catchpoint. While Sneed doesn’t rip the ball out, he’s strong and physical enough to force Brown toward the sideline and prevent the completion.
It’s hard to find a much better rep from a corner on an island against a go route than this one.
Nice rep by L'Jarius Sneed to win the hand fight and get a PBU against the go route from Stefon Diggs pic.twitter.com/GPqn6M518k— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) January 16, 2024
Shifting gears to the Bills matchup, Buffalo tried a similar strategy against Sneed with their top receiver; Stefon Diggs, running go routes against him and the results were almost identical.
Again, Sneed does a great job of matching Diggs’ speed throughout the route. The corner also uses his hands well to stay in phase as he and the receiver were going back and forth hand-fighting for about 15 yards. That allows Sneed to stay in Diggs’ hip pocket, and Sneed turns his head at the last second to get a pass breakup.
Now, the other end of this is Sneed’s physicality and use of hands can also get him in trouble as he’s drawn 17 penalties this season, which was the most of any corner by five. However, he has plenty of reps like the one above to help make up for those flags.
L'Jarius Sneed plays this double move perfectly pic.twitter.com/RHE5O8ns0A— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) January 16, 2024
One more deep route before we move on and this rep highlights the corner’s instincts and route recognition.
Again, Sneed is in press coverage and uses his hands early in the route to stay in Gabe Davis’ hip pocket. However, the Bills try a wrinkle by having Davis run a double-move on the out-and-up route. In theory, that should use Sneed’s aggressiveness against him as the offense is hoping he tries to undercut the out route.
But, he recognizes what’s going on and breaks up the field at the same time as Davis instead. To finish, Sneed gets reattached to Davis and uses his hands to force the receiver wide and toward the sideline, limiting the amount of space the quarterback has to throw. That also disrupts the timing of the route as the ball sails over both players’ heads and falls incomplete.
L'Jarius Sneed with the rare PBU on the screen pic.twitter.com/fBQVoKDU9k— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) January 16, 2024
Another area where the Chief’s instincts and aggressiveness stand out is against screens. Here, the Eagles put DeVonta Smith on an orbit motion across the formation, and Sneed senses something is up as he shifts from playing head up and right in Brown's face to having outside leverage and a couple of yards of cushion.
Once the ball is snapped, Sneed makes sure his pre-snap read is correct and crashes hard downhill once Hurts starts to throw. That allows Sneed to defeat Brown’s block and blow up the screen as Smith tries to haul in the catch.
L'Jarius Sneed drives on the route to get a PBU pic.twitter.com/TQdb3BYGw2— Matt Holder (@MHolder95) January 16, 2024
We’ll end with another nice play against a short route.
It’s third and four and Buffalo calls a short in route to Diggs. That’s a pretty good play call since Kansas City is bringing some heat with a Cover 4 call behind the pressure and a defensive lineman dropping into coverage as one of the two underneath defenders.
If Diggs catches this, not only does he get the first down but this could be an explosive play as he’ll easily run past the defensive tackle and can cut up the middle of the field. However, Sneed keeps his eyes on the quarterback and uses his peripheral vision to see the receiver, allowing him to drive on the route.
To finish, he times up the hit perfectly, right as the ball reaches Diggs, and Sneed gets his hand in the catchpoint to break up the pass. That’s a huge play to avoid a potential disaster and force a punt.