Murf Baldwin’s latest breakdown involves Xavier McKinney and his potential impact against LSU’s new spread offense. As he notes, a safety who can tackle running backs in space and also cover wide receivers is an extremely valuable commodity that allows the secondary to play “big.” It’s about a 10 minute watch and worth your time.
McKinney has been outstanding, but it should be noted that he was only able to shift into this type of role due to the emergence of freshman safety Jordan Battle. As you may recall, early in the season Josh Jobe was playing outside in dime, shifting Patrick Surtain II inside while McKinney stayed at safety. It worked well enough, but tackling suffered a bit. Battle’s progression has allowed McKinney to flash his versatility and play closer to the line of scrimmage where he can use his length to take away slants and even blitz occasionally. Surtain has been able to stay outside in his more natural role as well.
Most importantly, McKinney’s ability to cover tight ends and play the run affords Pete Golding the ability to stay in dime against 11 personnel if he so chooses, limiting the exposure of a linebacker corps that lacks depth.
Enjoy watching McKinney, folks, because he’s going to be a first rounder in April. In fact, it seems that Baldwin actually prefers him to LSU counterpart Grant Delpit. We will soon find out if NFL teams agree, but hopefully he will help earn some more hardware before he goes.