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Film Room: LB Markus Bailey is a stud in coverage

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The Bengals got a top-100 talent in the seventh round in Bailey.

Boston College v Purdue Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

When it comes to pass defense, Markus Bailey was one of the best linebackers in college football. After an injury-shortened 2019, Bailey was destined to be drafted late. But his draft position did not reflect his talent.

If Bailey can get back to his previous form, the Bengals may just hit the jackpot with this seventh-round pick out of Purdue.

Let’s take a look at what Bailey can do.

What’s most impressive about Bailey is his ability in coverage.

In this clip he matches up with the crosser. Since this is a short route, Bailey is playing on top of it, but that doesn’t prevent him from being able to make a play on the ball. He uses his off-hand, which is the hand furthest from the reliever, to make a play on the ball while securing the tackle with his on-hand.

Bailey made a play on the ball in the first clip. That is great, but let’s be honest, what we really want are interceptions. Bailey had six interceptions during his time at Purdue, including this one.

Linebackers aren’t generally much of a threat on quick outside pitches to the field, but Bailey gets under this one. He does a great job of reading the quarterback and comes away with the pick.

Of course many Bengals fans are also Buckeyes fans and probably remember his pick-six when the Boilermakers upset Ohio State in 2018.

This is a really high-level player.

Although Bailey is a bit off of the ball. He and three other players are showing blitz. When you add in the three down-linemen that makes six potential pass-rushers, but the offense is in an empty formation so they only have five blockers.

In this situation the offense has one route designated as the “hot route.” This is where the ball will go if the quarterback needs to get rid of it quickly because the defense is bringing more pass rushers than the protection can handle.

Bailey and the other defender towards the bottom of the screen who is a step behind the other rushers are reading the center.

Purdue is showing three pass rushers on each side of the ball. Wherever the center goes, they will be able to pick up all three and on the other side they won’t.

The quarterback must understand the protection and what it can handle. He knows that they can only pick up two rushers on the bottom of the screen. So he is throwing “hot” off one of the linebackers on that side.

When the quarterback sees that linebacker blitzing, he knows right where to go with the ball, but Bailey sees the center step towards him and drops off underneath the “hot route” for the interception.

That is why Bailey completely ignores the route on his side of the formation. He knows where the ball is going.

This is a great play and shows that Bailey was playing in a complex defensive system that he had deep understanding of.

While Bailey’s strength is in pass defense, he is skilled against the run as well.

Here he does a great job of striking the offensive tackle and using a swipe move to disengage. He is then able to bring down the running back for a short gain.

Bailey demonstrates excellent speed in this clip as he gets to the edge. Once again he strikes the blocker and is able to quickly disengage to make the tackle.


Bailey was the third linebacker the Bengals selected in the 2020 NFL Draft and like the previous two, he is excellent in coverage. This along with other moves over the last year will lead to a completely renovated linebacker corps in 2020 and beyond.

Bailey is coming back from his second ACL injury, but he played three complete seasons in between them so it is neither fair nor accurate to call him injury-prone. Still, his injury understandably impacted his draft slot. If he had played all season he could have been a day two pick.

He has tremendous upside for a seventh-round pick and if he can stay healthy could play a major role for the Bengals in the near future.