Darnell Mooney: Superstar in the making

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***BREAKDOWN COMPLETED ***

There is one major distinction between cornerbacks and elite shutdown cornerbacks. And that is recovery. Every CB is going to get beat eventually, but the elite guys are able to recover within that very same play.



This is Jaire Alexander, an elite shutdown cornerback, in the NFC Championship game. He gets beat early in the play by speedster Scotty Miller. Alexander immediately flips his hips and recovers his ground. The fluidity of his movement makes it hard to recognize that he even got beat in the first place. It’s a seamless transition.

This principle also applies to some of the great receivers in the game. You could have 4.3 40 straight line speed with absolutely no capability of getting open in the NFL. But if you can glide on the grass and maneuver in different directions without losing speed, you become a nightmare for opposing secondaries.

DARNELL MOONEY



- CONTINUOUS SPEED

Stems are what NFL coaches call the initial phase of a receiver's route. Stems are very important because they determine how the cornerback sets up.



On this particular play, Mooney comes barreling off the snap at full speed max effort. This prepares the cornerback covering him for a straight go route. Mooney could also angle inward to a deep post or angle outward to a corner route. He could also stop on a curl route, as the deep safety actually jumps into coverage to actually defend this.

But the one route the CB is not expecting is a straight out route to the sideline. At that speed, it’s totally unexpected. You could tell by the reaction of the defensive back that he had no answer for that route. And that’s because there is no answer for it. You can’t sit on such a sharp break at top speed without opening yourself up to getting easily burned deep.

And that is the major issue when defending Darnell Mooney. He plays at a continuous speed in and out of breaks. This continuous speed makes it look, at times, like he just plays at a different speed than everyone else on the field. And this speed is easily identifiable in film by how caught off guard the defender appears to be.



First of all, the deep safety at the end of this play was actually doubling Robinson on the other side of the field. He only converged with Mooney because Robinson ran a crossing route to Mooney’s side of the field.

So the defender covering Mooney knew he had no help deep so he had to play it safe. And knowing all this, how could he make such a gross miscalculation by being turned into a human traffic cone? Literally all he could do was attempt to grab onto Mooney as he ran by. It’s because of the constant speed from within Mooney maneuvers. This causes defenders to misjudge their coverage. For a moment, they actually think they have him covered, and the next moment they realize they never really had a chance with the setup they chose.



This is a tight turn from a deep post to a go route. Again, the defender thinks he is in good position and then he quickly finds himself more than 5 yards behind Mooney. It’s not the pure speed that Mooney wins with, it’s the change of direction at speed.



Mooney is at the bottom of the screen on this play. It’s cover 2 zone coverage. The cornerback has to jam and redirect Mooney to slow him down so that the safety has time to get over the top of him.

The CB redirects Mooney, but it doesn’t slow him down. Mooney actually accelerates as he swerves around the CB. By the time he quickly crosses the 25 yard line, the safety is still in a stationary position and has not gotten the proper depth to cover Mooney.

If this play does not end abruptly, you’d see Mooney effortlessly zooming past the safety making him a human traffic sign like the previous examples. Unfortunately, both offensive tackles are beat immediately off of the snap and Foles has to throw up a grenade 3 steps into his drop with both defensive ends converging on his chest.



Here the cornerback knows he has help underneath and in the middle of the field. He’s guarding the boundary, and Mooney still beats him to the sideline.

- STRONG HANDS: THE GREAT EQUALIZER

Believe it or not, there are very few natural hands catchers in the current era of the NFL. Darnell Mooney is one of them.



While hands are always an underrated part of a receivers game, they serve a greater importance to a guy like Mooney. He uses them to neutralize his greatest weakness, his size.

Most receivers like to use their body as a safety net when catching a football. A natural hands catcher is comfortable without that net. To combat his shorter stature, Darnell attacks the football at the earliest possible moment.

DeAndre Hopkins is one of, if not the most physical wide receivers in the game. He regularly manhandles defensive backs. So I’m not trying to compare Mooney to him. But as far as attacking the football is concerned, they are very similar.

There will be defenders taller than Mooney. But that doesn’t matter much when he’s snatching the ball before they can use that height advantage.







At 180lbs, Mooney is not going to be out muscling many defenders at the catch point. Instead, Mooney skillfully uses his hands to avoid the conflict all together.



On this play, the ball is drifting towards the middle of the field. Darnell Savage is on the inside of Mooney, and he’s running directly into the path of the ball. Rather than lunge for the ball and collide with Savage, Mooney maintains his position and deploys his hands to do all the dirty work.



This is a Tampa 2 coverage with the linebacker as the deep middle safety. As Mooney comes out of his break, he’s expecting the ball to be thrown to his outside shoulder away from the covering linebacker. The ball is instead thrown to his inside shoulder.

What Mooney does next is very counterintuitive. He willfully lunges his body away from the ball’s trajectory while catching it to avoid the coverage. Most receivers would never attempt this. You need to have supreme confidence in your hands. Mooney must know he can catch balls in his sleep.

- CREATING SPACE

To be a great receiver in the NFL you need an understanding of how to generate space for yourself against different coverages.

For a speedster such as Mooney, in man coverage, the best way to create space is off the snap. With an understanding of how defenses want to play him, Mooney will make defenders look foolish if they try to overplay him to the outside.



Here Mooney fakes to the inside off the snap to set Janoris Jenkins up. Then he jab steps to the outside to get Jenkins to commit, before crossing past him and blowing by him to the inside.



Here Mooney shuffles his feet at the snap to get Marshon Lattimore to attempt to mirror him. Then at the exact moment Lattimore has both feet planted on the ground, Mooney makes his move to the inside. Lattimore knows he’s done, as he desperately attempts to grab Mooney’s shoulder pad. Unfortunately, as Mooney is separating himself to the inside, the ball drifts outside and back into the coverage.

Much like a QB, a WR has to quickly diagnose the defense and make adjustments based off of that defense. This is a concept that still baffles Anthony Miller to this day. When playing against off coverage in zone, the receiver has to find a perfect equilibrium on the field. He has to be just far enough ahead of the underneath coverage while staying just short of the deep coverage.



Here Mooney perfectly cuts between the over the top and underneath zone.



Here the defense shows man and switches to zone. Mooney makes the proper adjustments on the fly.

Sometimes man and zone concepts meld together in one play. On this play, for instance, Mooney has to navigate this very circumstance.



Mooney is at the top of the screen. It’s 1st down, so there is only one deep safety. But he is shaded over Mooney on the far hash. The CB over Mooney is in press coverage. Robinson is on the opposite side of the field, and his defender is in off coverage.

Mooney thinks he is being bracketed, basically double teamed. In this type of alignment with help over the top, the cornerback can be more aggressive. Mooney uses all of this presnap information against the defense.



He uses this aggressive mindset against him. Mooney takes 3 steps off the snap and then a jab step to the inside. The CB bites and immediately spins around to try and recover from his misstep.

Mooney knows that whether it’s by 1 yard or by 5 yards, he has the CB beat. He immediately turns his attention to the deep safety. He locates the bracketing safety before turning back to track the ball.

Rather than turning on the after burners to pull further away from the CB, Mooney puts it in cruise control and angles his route to the sideline. He understands that he cannot get too close to the safety but he also cannot let the CB back into the play. Mooney marries the concepts beautifully, and finishes the play by attacking the ball at the earliest point.

- COMP

As a comp, I’d have to go with “scary” Terry Mclaurin. He’s a smaller speed receiver with a very physical mindset. An overlooked superstar in Washington, hidden behind bad quarterback play. Mooney seems to be following the same trajectory as the 2019 Mclaurin. If you wanted to really chug the kool-aid, you could see some similarities to Odell Beckham JR. In a legitimate NFL offense, Mooney like McLaurin has the potential to become a star.
 
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dabears70

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You gotta keep in mind that Scotty was also slowing down some cause you can see him with his head turned watching the ball and noticing it was way underthrown. If the ball is thrown where it needed to be it's a easy TD.

Still think that Jaire is a great CB.
 

LiverpoolBearsFAn

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A big reason I don’t want to pay A-Rob(besides not wanting to overpay him)is because this kid is electric. Love what he did year 1 and think he has a breakout season 2.
Him and A Rob though, should be a great pairing in terms of complementary skills. I would love to see what both of them could do being thrown to by a good QB. Mooney looks a real talent.
 

circusboy666

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Him and A Rob though, should be a great pairing in terms of complementary skills. I would love to see what both of them could do being thrown to by a good QB. Mooney looks a real talent.
We know what A-Rob can do. He can make catches and put up numbers. Not change the game. I’d prefer more opportunities for Mooney who has the potential for more explosive plays. Invest in our youth.
 

Bearly

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And he came into the league ready. This was all apparent in his college tape. I'm so glad Furrey was pounding the table for him.

The only thing I've seen that he may need work on is one on one balls because he's not used to going against guys as strong, big and fast as the NFL let alone top level college. That said, his awareness is uncanny and he plays great D. It's also harder to come back for balls when you were already ahead of the defender. Most of his limitations have been his QBs and the Coach's unwillingness to move him around more. He could be very useful in the slot at times. He's great getting off the line with pressure and YAC.
 
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Bearly

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You gotta keep in mind that Scotty was also slowing down some cause you can see him with his head turned watching the ball and noticing it was way underthrown. If the ball is thrown where it needed to be it's a easy TD.

Still think that Jaire is a great CB.
Contested and showed a lot more awareness that the guy he was covering.
 

Bearly

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i could watch this all day
Here's the thing. You can see the ball was overthrown and we don't know if the added deke that left the DB flat footed affected the timing. A good QB should adjust to that pretty easily and pick the inside shoulder but...

Never mind, We so need a QB, LOL.
:obama:
 

dabears70

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Contested and showed a lot more awareness that the guy he was covering.
Scotty was running full speed in a straight line and Jaire had an angle to be able to slow, look for the ball and make the play.
 

dabears70

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i could watch this all day
I love watching that play and Mooney also beat him another time in that same game. How good a feeling it would of been if our QB (pretty sure it was Foles but not 100 on that) hit him in stride for a long TD catch and run. Ramsey would of been pointing around asking where his help was but really he just got schooled by a 5th round rookie. lol
 

Bearly

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Scotty was running full speed in a straight line and Jaire had an angle to be able to slow, look for the ball and make the play.
Scotty was still getting caught until the better player turned his head. Good throw is contested, a perfect throw likely caught but that's not easy at that distance. I know their 40 times but one is more dynamic and doesn't slow down as much in pads.
 
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Bearly

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It was a pick and an example of great CB play. Perfect throws beat everybody but you can't assume them. Anything less and it's contested. Deal with it. Better players make plays.
 

dabears70

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It was a pick and an example of great CB play. Perfect throws beat everybody but you can't assume them. Anything less and it's contested. Deal with it. Better players make plays.
It was severely underthrown. Mitch can put it closer than that ball was to being a completed pass to Scotty. It was a simple play for any CB.

#TruthHurts
 

Bearly

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It was severely underthrown. Mitch can put it closer than that ball was to being a completed pass to Scotty. It was a simple play for any CB.

#TruthHurts
Hardly the point. Stating a fact does not make your entire supposition correct.
#Youcan'tbuythiswinit'snotfantasyfootball 😝
 
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