We all laughed at the national media when they repeatedly mocked safeties to the Cincinnati Bengals leading up to the NFL Draft. Did they forget about Dax Hill? Did they not get the memo when the team signed Nick Scott?
Well, we were wrong, as the Bengals used their third-round pick on Alabama Crimson Tide safety Jordan Battle.
To be more accurate, they traded their 3rd Round pick for a slightly lower third-round pick and a late sixth-round pick. So, in fact, they parlayed their third-round pick into Battle and Michigan punter Brad Robbins, but I digress.
After the pick was made, every Bengals’ coach with a mic in his face raved about Battle’s intelligence. He apparently blew them away in interviews. One coach said that they barely got through any film with him because Battle was breaking down every minute detail.
Regardless of their need or lack of need at the position, the Bengals identified Battle as a target. Let’s take a look at what Battle brings to the banks.
Battle is #9 in white. He is lined up just above the Mississippi State logo.
Battle has incredible spacial awareness. He seems to have a knack for not getting caught behind other defenders who are blocked. Like water, Battle finds a way to get downhill and make the play.
In this clip, he is a deep safety but comes down tight to the formation and slips outside to make the tackle on the edge.
Battle is #9 in white. He is the closest player to the left edge of the screen.
Battle looks like a sideline-to-sideline linebacker in this clip. You could also say that he looks like a running back.
He flows with the action and keeps his eyes in the backfield. When a hole opens up, he beats the running back to the punch and makes the tackle for a loss.
With the shift to Scott and Hill at safety, the Bengals seemed to be favoring rangy deep-field defenders over old-school strong safeties. Battle gives you that physical presence screaming down to stop the run, but make no mistake, Battle has the range to play in the deep field zone...
Jordan Battle is a big safety who looks comfortable as the last line of defense for Alabama. He can cover the deep 1/2 or the middle 1/3. He can come down to the LOS & play the slot/overhang role vs TEs. He holds up in man coverage. Good tackler. Good range. pic.twitter.com/zbRjDlHT66— IgglesNest (@IgglesNest) November 15, 2021
Battle is number 9 in white, on the near hash marks at the 37 yard line.
This is not cover 2, but a specialty coverage where Battle is responsible for whoever runs deep and to the outside.
Battle does an excellent job of reading the route combination. Then he breaks and switches his read to the quarterback. He cuts underneath the route for the interception, then takes it to the house for a score.
Battle may not have the timed speed that some of the other Bengals’ safeties have, but he makes quick reads and acts decisively. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this play is that there was a late coverage change due to the motion, and Battle still reacted to his reads quickly and confidently.
Acting decisively is the key to making plays on defense. Battle believes his reads and reacts at full speed.
Battle flies into the frame from out of nowhere in this clip. He jumps in front of the hitch route and takes it back for another pick-six.
Battle is number 9 in white, above the first “S.”
Of course, you aren’t always going to get there in time to make a play on the football. Understanding when to go for the tackle is important
In this clip, Battle is playing deep and knows he won’t get there before the ball does, but he delivers a big hit and makes a good tackle. Although the receiver holds on to the ball, the tackle is made a yard short of the first down.
This was a huge play!
A comparison has been made between Battle and Vonn Bell, and that’s a good comp. Battle shares Bell’s versatility and smarts, and both have the physicality to play in the box.
Adding Battle gives the Bengals the ability to use Dax Hill in a variety of roles, including as an additional slot defender and covering tight ends man to man, while still being able to play with two deep safeties.
You can see why the Bengals were excited to add Battle.