2016 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Duke LB/S Jeremy Cash

As you should know by now, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have interest in.

A breakdown of Duke hybrid player Jeremy Cash.

#16, Jeremy Cash — Safety, Duke, 6’0”, 212 Lbs., Redshirt Senior

The Good

-Instinctive athlete when lined up around the line of scrimmage
-Finds the football very well in the running game
-Physical in-the-box safety that loves contact
-Has a nose for the football, turnover-creating machine
-Excels at read-and-react defense when he keeps everything in front of him
-Impressive closing burst to narrow the gap between him and the ball carrier
-Makes a living hanging around the line of scrimmage
-Disruptive force that shoots gaps well to make big plays behind the line
-Thick frame that is build for rigors of in-the-box safety

The Bad

-Not overly comfortable in coverage
-Gets lost on routes by getting turned around
-Struggles to get off blocks in space
-Poor technique and instincts in man-to-man coverage, very stiff hips in coverage
-Heavy feet in coverage
-Can get caught flat-footed when trying to use press technique
-Really slow at flipping hips to run with opponent
-Balance and fluidity an issue in coverage
-Limited lateral movement skills, labors to change directions
-Slow to drop into coverage with proper depth

The Other

-27 career games (27 starts) at Duke
-Recorded 232 tackles, 20.0 tackles for loss, 5.5 quarterback sacks, six INTs, 11 PBUs, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and seven QB pressures
-Played for Ohio State before transferring to Duke following a coaching change
-Team captain for the Blue Devils
-Will turn 24 years old in December

Film Breakdown

Let’s start out by saying what Jeremy Cash isn’t: a version of Arizona’s Deone Bucannon, who is an inside linebacker for the Cardinals.

Yes, Cash makes big plays on a consistent basis around the line of scrimmage — much like Bucannon did before making the switch to the front seven.

However, Bucannon was a freak athlete who not only had the incredibly muscular frame to hold up in the front seven who also had the game-breaking speed to change the game.

Cash has a thick frame that will allow him to hold up playing on and around the line of scrimmage at the next level, but he doesn’t have game-breaking speed, and — quite frankly — is poor in coverage.

If you want to compare him to anyone in the NFL, compare him to guys like Will Allen, Kam Chancellor and T.J. Ward, who can make plays behind the line of scrimmage, serve as dangerous blitzing options for their respective defensive coordinators, and can drop into zone coverage when needed to.

All are very physical and seek out contact at every possible chance they get. That’s what Jeremy Cash brings to the table.

So, in terms of what he does bring and what he is as a player, let’s take a look at his coverage strengths and weaknesses.

As I mentioned in the ‘bad’ section, Cash really struggles in man coverage.

Take a look at this clip against the Miami Hurricanes in 2014.

At the snap, Cash tries to get his hands on the Miami receiver, but by stopping his feet Cash leaves himself vulnerable to getting beat over the top, which happens here.

Once Cash reaches out to get his hands on the receiver, he tends to let his feet fall flat, which makes it much harder for him to flip his hips and recovery. Although he’s able to use his limited speed to recover on the play, his stiff hips, heavy feet and lack of feel for man coverage really burns him here.

While man coverage is a major issue for Cash, what he really excels at in coverage is a read-and-react style in zone coverage as the Striker safety for the Blue Devils.

When he’s able to sit into a zone and react to what his eyes are seeing in front of him, he’s a force to be reckoned with.

Take a look at this clip from the same game against the Hurricanes in 2014.

At the snap Cash drops a few yards deep just outside of the hashmarks. By sitting down in the zone and keeping things in front of him, Cash is able to react to the pass from Brad Kaaya intended for current Oakland Raiders tight end, Clive Walford.

Although Cash could have gone for the pick here, he nearly splits Walford in half, letting the rest of the Hurricanes know that they better have their heads on a swivel if they’re going to run crossing routes into his area.
There are other limitations to Cash’s coverage skills outside of man coverage.

Take a look at this clip from this past season against North Carolina this past season.

As you can see, Cash has to work on his zone drops when receivers are behind him. On this particular play, Cash has to get a deeper drop to make for a tougher throw from the quarterback. While he isn’t able to do that here, the biggest concern I have from this play is how slow he is to flip his hips, how he labors through his change of direction, and his lack of balance as he flips his hips.

Cash’s footwork isn’t great in coverage, so if a team is going to invest in him, they have to have a plan from the get-go that doesn’t involve a ton of man coverage or deep zone responsibilities.

Where Cash really excels though is around the line of scrimmage where he is an absolute terror on seemingly every snap. Reminds you of someone doesn’t he?

Take a look at this clip against Georgia Tech this past season.

Coming on the blitz, Cash is able to knife right through the line to make the play on the GT quarterback, forcing the fumble.

While flying through the line, Cash uses his awareness to realize that the quarterback still has the ball, allowing the running back to fly by on the fake.

He’s very instinctive on and around the line of scrimmage where teams have to know where he’s lined up at all times.

Then there is this play from the same game against Georgia Tech.

Look at the way he times the blitz perfectly to blow up the play, forcing yet another fumble. This guy is so instinctive and smart as a football player.

No, I’m not comparing Cash to Troy Polamalu, so please don’t blow up on me in the comments section, but on plays like this Cash shows similar qualities that Polamalu once had.

Outside of a blitzing safety off the edge, Cash loves to take on lead blockers in a unique way in the running game.

This is probably my favorite play from Cash through five games I watched.

This clip is from the 2013 ACC Championship game against the eventual National Champion Florida State Seminoles.

Cash comes off the edge to squeeze down hard against the run. By going low to submarine Nick O’Leary — who currently plays for the Buffalo Bills – Cash is able to blow up the play, allowing his teammates to clean up the mess behind the line of scrimmage.

He also showcased this technique in 2014 against the Miami Hurricanes where he blew up the fullback and flipped Duke Johnson head over heels on the play.

It’s really tough to root out a defender when he goes low like this, which makes it incredibly effective.

While Cash is a terror against the run, there are times in space where he really struggles to get off blocks because he gets caught looking in the backfield.

With 32-inch arms, Cash needs to learn to utilize his length to create extension before shedding the blocker to find the football.

There are times where he simply getting worked over by blockers in space. It’s concerning, but with a little coaching he’ll be just fine. All of the physical and mental tools are there.

Overall, I love Cash’s game. I’m not drafting him to be a coverage-heavy safety. I want to put him in as comfortable of a position as possible, which includes playing him a lot in the box.

If he can serve as an extra body in the box that is strong against the run, blitzes well and has a great nose for the football to create turnovers, I see no reason why we have to label him one way or the other.

Projection: Mid-2nd

Games Watched: vs. Florida State (’13), at Miami (’14), at Virginia Tech (’14), vs. Georgia Tech (’15), at North Carolina (’15)

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  • Spencer Krick

    I like Cash, but I question how well he would pair with Mitchell.

  • The Notorious TOM

    I wonder if Cash’s hypetrain would be quite as full if he had a more pedestrian last name like Jones or something.

  • rdjmsr53

    with that list of negatives and mid-second round projection, I would consider this years safety class a bust. And since the Steelers need defensive backs, maybe they should trade 5 or 6 of their picks for a player that doesn’t have a laundry list of negative comments.

  • PittsburghSports

    What was his injury or reason he didn’t participate at the combine?

    I like these instinctive in-the-box college safeties, but this isn’t 1990. If Will Allen is a good comparison, then how is he a 2nd rd projection? We watched Will Allen get his sacks last year, but when the opposing offense forced a matchup with him, he was beat more times than not. Same with Darian Thompson. If that’s truly his athletic ability that was on display yesterday, how do you spend a pick on a player like that before round 3 or 4? Another guy is Miles Killebrew that also seems to be an in-the-box Safety, but he timed very well in the drills outside the 40. If he’s got that type of quickness, maybe it’s a different story, but until we see him run, which will be inflated Pro Day numbers anyway, I just can’t see this guy being selected before late day 2 at the earliest. If it’s the 4th rd and we got an OLB, DE/DT, and a G or TE already, then sure spend a mid rd selection on him.

  • falconsaftey43

    Well he’d play a similar in the box role that Will Allen played last year except with greater athletic ability, so I think it would be a fine pairing if that’s what the Steelers are looking to do on defense. If they want to go more cover 2, then he’s not their man. But to continue using mostly cover 3 as they did last year, I think it’s a really good pair.

  • falconsaftey43

    Think the Will Allen comp is intended to be more on playing style/role than on talent level. He’ll be an in the box safety in a cover 3-cover 1 defense that plays around the line of scrimmage, which is how Allen was used this past year. Cash has greater athletic ability than a 33 year old Allen, and he’s also a much better tackler in space.

  • PittsburghSports

    I get that he’s younger and therefore more athletic because of the age, but how can you point your finger at anything without knowing his athletic measurements? How do you know Cash has greater athletic ability? You’re just guessing at this point. The breakdown above says he’s not comfortable in coverage, gets lost and turned around, has poor technique in man-to-man, is stiff, has heavy feet, flat footed, slow at flipping his hips, issues with balance and fluidity, limited lateral movement and change of direction. I’m not spending a 2nd rd pick on that.

  • 58Steel

    Mitchell can play either spot. While I think he is best suited as SS, his ability to cover either spot allows the Steelers flexibility in who they acquire (FA and/or draft) to pair with Mitchell,

  • Jeremy McClurg

    We need to find a safety that has range in the secondary, and gives us the ability to move Mike Mitchell to his natural position at SS. He fits perfectly as our SS, because his physicality and speed. So guys like Darian Thompson, Vonn Bell, or Karl Joseph should be on our radar.

  • falconsaftey43

    I’m judging athletic ability off of what I see on tape. He’s fast and explosive closing on the ball. Will Allen was not, so in my eyes he’s more athletic. He also tackles more consistently with good form and angles when closing on plays in front of him. I believe he can fill the role Allen played last year at a much higher level than Allen did. I know Cash has athletic limitations as pointed out, and is scheme limited because of it. Cash is one of those guys whose grade/value will vary a lot depending on what you want your defense to look like. If you want to run a Cover 2, Cash doesn’t really fit and is a mid-late rounder. If you want to run a lot of Cover 1 with your SS in man coverage, Cash doesn’t really fit and is a mid-late rounder. If you want to run Cover 1 or Cover 3 with your SS in undernieth zone/robber role and to be a force against the run as an in the box defender, then Cash is a great fit and talent and is a 2nd-3rd rounder. Question for Steelers is do they want to play defense they did last year with Allen, or did they only play that because that’s all Allen could do.

  • thomas hmmmm

    I’d like more of a safety that can cover, seeing how coverage is the weakest part of the D.

  • PittsburghSports

    I can just see him get turned around on an out-and-up by a TE and getting burned, by the description I just read. Not much else I can say until I see his numbers. Will Allen makes up a lot of speed with 12 years of NFL experience too, and he still got burnt like toast.

  • falconsaftey43

    I agree, an out and up by a TE in man coverage would give him trouble. It’s why his value depends on what you want to do. If you don’t plan on using him in man coverage, then it’s not a problem. Cash is very instinctive with the play in front of him, if used in that role of a box run defender and underneath zone defender, he can be great.

  • Scott Thomas

    You really care a lot about those measurements, I see

  • PittsburghSports

    Rather vague comment, Scott. Tape and measurements are combined and the only time you care too much about one is if it varies too much from the other. A good player on tape that’s slow, and a fast player with bad tape are things you need to go back and take a look at, and see if you’ve over-evaluated or under-evaluated a player. Sean Davis runs a 4.46, ok let me go back and look at my mid round projection. Maybe that speed gets him into day 2. Looks stiff in drills. Ok let me judge him solely as a Safety and not a CB. Same with Darian Thompson and Jeremy Cash. Great tape, but are they slow as molasses? A 4.6 to 4.7 really limits you as a Safety. I know Alex used Kenoy Kennedy as an example of a slow Safety being drafted in rd 2, but that was 15 years ago. That’s a huge secondary weakness in todays NFL with defenses trying to deal with 11 personnel on +70% of snaps.

  • PittsburghSports

    I sorta agree. Not so much moving Mitchell to SS, but just having another Safety that’s interchangeable and allows you to confuse the offense, so you’re not so predictable.

  • PittsburghSports

    I’m not saying Cash wouldn’t be a good addition, I’m just arguing that his value is limited and I’m more comfortable taking a player like that in rd 4 than I am in rd 2.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Cash is a very interesting prospect IMO.

    Even though we fans want the Steelers to draft a ball hawking free safety, it seems the coaching staff is leaning towards keeping Mike Mitchell at free safety and bringing in a starting strong safety. (Plus we already have Doran Grant, who now knows the system, who could slide in at free safety behind Mitchell.)

    I would expect that a young solid-tackling SS is the higher priority in the minds of Colbert/Tomlin. And regardless of his flaws, over the last 3 years, Jeremy Cash has recorded 100 – 111 – 121 tackles. That is A LOT of tackles. And he plays the “position” very similar to the way Butler/LeBeau have designed the “position” in the past.

    As long as he checks out healthy at his pro day, I would not be surprised at all if Jeremy Cash is our 2nd round pick (and quickly becomes our starting SS).

  • Ike Evans

    That pitt game smh…..it was like they were looking for him every play to throw at him and burn him…it was crazy

  • Michael Tran

    Totally agree, a guy like Darian Thompson paired with mike mitchell would be scary for opposing offenses

  • Bradys_Dad

    There’s that name thing again – lol

  • SFIC

    This guy is great inside the box. But if he struggles in space especially zone I say pass.

  • John Pennington

    Cash needs a lot of work and would not help the team this year


  • vasteeler

    Admittedly I didn’t watch much of him until last month, when I watched 3 games from this season and 3 games from 2014. I was shocked to discover that his coverage “skills” actually declined with more experience. HE DOES NOT HAVE THE ABILITY TO EVEN TURN AND RUN WITH YOUR GRANDMA. He can never be left one on one with anyone. NFL offenses will plan to attack him in coverage. He’s only good in the back end if he can see action in front of him. Good coordinators will exploit this like taking candy from a baby. A 2nd rd grade is VERY generous and almost laughable for such a limited player, especially when considering the fact that the steelers covet versatile defenders. Please don’t draft this guy, we don’t need a younger version of Will Allen

  • vasteeler

    Exactly, you took the words right out of my mouth

  • Interestingly, I haven’t seen or heard anything about Cash’s absence from the combine drills. I know he was a full participant at the senior bowl, and you wouldn’t think a wrist injury would affect the agility drills.

  • Scott Thomas

    I get what you’re saying. I think a player can be quick and explosive and still not run a great 40. Which is what I think happened with Thompson. Bringing up Josh Norman again, his 4.66 doesn’t appear to hinder him too much. Of course he could just be an exception.

    My main point is that a slower than expected 40 time shouldn’t drop a player 2 or 3 rounds and vice versa. There are just so many variables other than straight line speed. But we’ll revisit this is about 3 or 4 years to see how Thompson is doing.

  • PittsburghSports

    I heard something. I knew the wrist was from Dec., but thought I heard hamstring, but can’t find the info.

  • PittsburghSports

    I hear you about the 40. It’s more important with DBs though, and although I agree about the agility and quickness too, Thompson bombed those tests as well. Look at BC Safety Justin Simmons, who ran a 4.6 but his quickness and agility tests were impressive. That’s the type of Safety most of us were hoping Thompson, Cash and Cravens were, but don’t appear to be. Hard to tell for sure though, since one said he was sick and the other 2 didn’t work out much.